Art: Blazing Exceptions to Nature

A huge London show evokes the world of medieval England

One can hardly visit the great exhibition of English Gothic art, "The Age of Chivalry," which opened this month at the Royal Academy in London, without mixed feelings of delight, surfeit and loss. The first, obviously, because this is the first show to trace so large a part of England's cultural inheritance. It starts in 1216 with the enthronement of Henry III and ends with the death of the last Plantagenet, Richard II, in 1399, a span of nearly 200 years that brought Gothic art to England from France.

Sturdy and reflective, unwilling to accept imported style wholesale, English artists and...

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