One of my chronic 'get it off the shelf' books is Walter Pater's The Renaissance, and the reason why I can't read it is because Pater's prose makes me think I don't understand English. Here, for example, is him talking about sculpture:
"Luca della Robbia, and the other sculptors of the school to which he belongs, have before them the universal problem of their art; and this system of low relief is the means by which they meet and overcome the special limitation of sculpture—a limitation resulting from the material and the essential conditions of all sculptured work, and which consists in the tendency of this work to a hard realism, a one-sided presentment of mere form, that solid material frame which only motion can relieve, a thing of heavy shadows, and an individuality of expression pushed to caricature. Against this tendency to the hard presentment of mere form trying vainly to compete with the reality of nature itself, all noble sculpture constantly struggles: each great system of sculpture resisting it in its own way, etherealising, spiritualising, relieving its hardness, its heaviness and death. The use of colour in sculpture is but an unskilful contrivance to effect, by borrowing from another art, what the nobler sculpture effects by strictly appropriate means. To get not colour, but the equivalent of colour; to secure the expression and the play of life; to expand the too fixed individuality of pure, unrelieved, uncoloured form—this is the problem which the three great styles in sculpture have solved in three different ways.
Allgemeinheit— breadth, generality, universality— is the word chosen by Winckelmann, and after him by Goethe and many German critics, to express that law of the most excellent Greek sculptors, of Pheidias and his pupils, which prompted them constantly to seek the type in the individual, to abstract and express only what is structural and permanent, to purge from the individual all that belongs only to him, all the accidents, the feelings, and actions of the special moment, all that (because in its own nature it endures but for a moment) is apt to look like a frozen thing if one arrests it."
Somehow I never had these problems with sculpture. "...the hard presentment of mere form trying vainly to compete with the reality of nature itself"? It is? It does? Guy, what are you talking about?
I only keep on with this because somewhere in Pater there's supposed to be all this gay subtext. But I probably won't be able to recognize it when it peers through the dense thicket of Pater's prose.