"Four big volumes, A History of Painting"
'The Shrimp Girl': frontispiece of 'A History of Painting' - Credit: William Hogarth
Probably a reference to 'A History of Painting'
by Haldane McFall (1860-1923) which was first published in 1911. With a preface by Frank Brangwyn
, it ran to 8 volumes and had over 200 colour plates. It was a very comprehensive overview of art and artists through the ages and had sections entitled: 'The Renaissance in Venice'; 'The Dutch Genius' and 'The Modern Genius'.