Art: Modernism's Neglected Side

A first-rate London show assesses the classical revival, sympathetically but coolly

Some art seeks the edge, tries to break the boundary. And other art struggles to refine, integrate, bring the past forward into the present. Who, in the end, can say with assurance which is the more valuable? This is the main question posed by "On Classic Ground," this summer's main show at the Tate Gallery in London.

The show's subtitle, "Picasso, Leger, De Chirico and the New Classicism 1910-1930," only hints at the size of the field it covers. Its broad subject is the classical revival that spread through South European art -- mainly French, Italian and Spanish -- in the...