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by John Ruskin

This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.
Download Modern Painters Part One epub
ISBN: 1417945486
ISBN13: 978-1417945481
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: John Ruskin
Language: English
Publisher: Kessinger Publishing, LLC (March 1, 2005)
Pages: 332 pages
ePUB size: 1969 kb
FB2 size: 1122 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 171
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Mustard Forgotten
John Ruskin was a controversial and enormously influential art critic (but also a Renaissance man of manifold artistic,science, social, moral, religious, etc. interests and talents). His Magnum Opus, Modern Painters, was an extended analysis of classical (Old Masters) and Modern (mainly Turner) painters. The whole appeared to be a defense of the rabidly criticized Turner's paintings, who pre-dated the Impressionists by almost 50 years. As interesting as Mr. Ruskin might have been in the late 18 hundreds, his style is mostly unacceptable to the modern reader. His verbosity, pomposity, mixing of ethics and religion with esthetics, are tiring, tedious, and mostly dated. I could sympathize with his estranged wife, Effie, who liked people, while her hubby liked mostly pompous prose. Although his writings are being increasingly studied in the academic art community, his value for the even knowlegable amateur is more than doubtful. It is much more interesting to read about Ruskin than to read Ruskin.
How passionate is Mr. Ruskin. How terribly troubled by he is by landscape painters. Damn it all, the poor old fool takes art seriously and a single word of how much a work of art costs. Well I guess our generation showed him a thing or two about "MODERN ART" yes indeed.

In another vein if you wish to read a stylish, erudite, well reasoned and influential critic then this is one to begin with. If you find it too lengthy, for our modern tastes you may with to enjoy it one chapter at a time. Even his historical and literary allusions are worth the time.
Legend 33
Book is a poorly printed copy of the original text. Every word is opaque and words are cut off causing the reader to lose information.
This book is the first in a series on painters by Ruskin, modern at the time of writing, focusing chiefly on J.M.W.Turner, whom Ruskin, well, adores. Ruskin has many keen insights into art, painting, and what is and isn't art. He tells it like it is, and makes some important points. The book, or series of books, was apparently well read in previous times, and apparently not read at all in our epoch of Modern Art. What irony. Anyway, the book is a little difficult to read, and references painters who may have been well known to his readers in 19th century London, but are today not well known, except of course for Turner. Ruskin admits that Turners works lose a lot of their sparkle quickly, due to the intransigent nature of his materials, and suggests that Turner would have been better off doing a few oils a year, instead of dozens or hundreds or watercolors. May I also suggest Ruskin's excellent book called the Elements of Drawing? Worth a read, and easier to digest. Four stars because it is Ruskin, and has many elements of truth, not 5 because its a tough read, and maybe not too easy to assimilate.
I had two Ruskin books from you. This one was useful but not the guide that I had expected - my fault not yours
Some would argue that PRAETERITA is Ruskin's stylistic triumph, because it's written in a style that's less rococo than MODERN PAINTERS, not to mention that it's about his own life, not a questionable paean to J.M.W. Turner.

They're entitled to their opinion, but if you want Ruskin at his high-water mark stylistically, this is the volume to buy!
John Ruskin considers the relationship that art has with those who appreciate it. He mentions in the two previous volumes of Modern Painters that there were two sources of pleasure for art lovers. The first source lay in the observer's enjoyment in viewing the simple resemblance of the art object to its original model in nature. The second source was the actual pleasure taken in the contemplation of the painted object. There was a third source which functioned as a link between the first two--the relation of the meaning of the painted object to the object itself. Ruskin wishes to use these various sources of pleasure to isolate those traits that mark some artists as great and others as mediocre.

Ruskin admits that there are various unavoidable difficulties in setting up a systematic approach whose purpose it would be to accomplish his goal; instead, he suggests that his careful arrangement of chapters in Modern Painters will make the answer readily apparent.

He is quick to point out that the greatest art includes the greatest ideas, but he is still left with the central question of some basic definitions: "What is it that makes one truth greater than another, one thought greater than another?" The answer, he states, may rest in the historical division between the Great Art School of Theory and the Low Art School of Theory. The former connotes "a certain noble manner of painting, which it was desirable that all students of Art should be early led to reverence and adopt." By contrast, the latter is synonymous with "vulgar, low, or realist," which in terms of painting and conceiving "was equally necessary that all students should be taught to avoid." One obvious flaw to Ruskin was the inherent limits of such a twin level categorization. Those who call themselves "high" are often ridiculed for their pretentiousness. Then there are artists who claim not to be in either camp as their stated goals relate to entirely unrelated affairs like strength, health, and humbleness.

Before Ruskin can even begin to list the qualities that one may deem requisite for inclusion as High Art, he first asks whether it truly exists at all or is no more than an agreed on fiction that makes its practitioners feel high and mighty about themselves. Rather than devising his own rationale for the existence of the term, he turns to the noted writer/critic of the Augustan Age, Sir Joshua Reynolds for help. Reynolds had written various essays for Johnson's The Idler which dealt with this very topic. In The Idler # 79, Reynolds compares the Dutch with the Italian painters. The former he classifies as the "low" while the latter as the "high." The Dutch are low due to their excelling as mechanical imitators "in which the slowest intellect is sure to succeed best." The Italians are high because their art is a visual representation of their imaginative poetry and it is this which gives them the claim to superiority.

Though Ruskin accepts Reynolds' claim about the Italians, he nevertheless feels constrained to point out what he sees as flaws in his methodology. Reynolds interprets a "slow" intellect as a pejorative; Ruskin grants that "slow" might just as easily and laudably be seen as worthwhile restraint. Further, Reynolds notes with obvious approval how exactly the Dutch copy an object from nature onto a canvas. This method of faithfully rendering such an object is termed typical of the "historical" school of art. The Italians, with their poetic renderings, are linked with the "poetical" school." Paradoxically, the artists of the poetical school use accurate reproduction of object from nature to canvas at least as often as do those of the historical school. Thus, Reynolds' conclusion falls flat, leaving Ruskin back to square one.

Ruskin tries a different tack to clarify the relation that art has to the observer of that art. He now asks rhetorically: "What is poetry?" His conclusion is that poetry is "the suggestion, by the imagination, of noble grounds for the noble emotions." He adds that these emotions are the "four principal sacred passions: Love, Veneration, Admiration, and Joy." These sacred passions have their contraries: "Hatred, Scorn, Horror, and Grief." Poetry, then, is the mixing of these into their various combinations, which emerge as "poetical feeling." Yet, these feelings by themselves do not constitute poetry. What is needed to complete the equation is that they must be felt on noble grounds, which he helpfully adds as being "true" or "great." The firing of gunpowder, for example, would not be "great" but the budding of a flower would be so. Once the reader reads a poem that has the needed emotions, has a true ground, then that reader needs to interact with that poem via the active use of his imagination to transform the verbal prompts on the page into indelible images in his head. When that reader notes the accumulation of delicate details, then he will perceive an affecting result, which most critics call the "power" of poetry to move men.

Despite Ruskin's lengthy digression on poetry, he adds that "Painting is properly to be opposed to speaking or writing but not to poetry. Both painting and speaking are methods of expression. Poetry is the employment of either for the noblest purposes." This frank admission does not necessarily return Ruskin to square one. He does see a link between the sister arts: "We gather three important indications of the supposed nature of the Great Style. That it is the work of men in a state of enthusiasm. That it is like the writing of Homer; and that it has as little as possible of `common nature' in it."

The first requirement is fairly obvious. Ruskin requires that the artist "feel strongly and nobly." The concept of "nobly" disqualifies such base passions as envy, jealousy, or rank ambition. The second is less obvious due to the vagueness of "common nature." Though Homer often writes of "common" things in the Iliad and the Odyssey--shields, cups, sandals and the like--there is little that is common in the passions of the verse. So as Homer used the common and small minutia of a warrior's daily routine to point that warrior toward greater things, so must the painter with his visually reproduced common and small items.

In Modern Painters, Ruskin also considers the role that the mind plays regarding the relation between the mind viewing external reality as either subjective or objective.

John Ruskin begins by distinguishing between "objective" and "subjective." The former he defines as the "qualities of things which they always have, irrespective of any other nature, as roundness or squareness." The latter refers to "the qualities of things which thus depend upon our perception of them, and upon our human nature as affected by them." From this he considers which of the two terms has the greater impact on our lives. He facetiously mentions philosophers who may deny the latent power to destroy that inheres within gunpowder even as that gunpowder proves otherwise. Ruskin does not like either term since both have meanings which vary from person to person and context to context. For "subjective," one might easily use "It seems to me." And for objective, one can say "It is so."

From what seems so to what is so, Ruskin suggests that one's state of mind may account for the perception of either. Those who are under the stress of exaggerated emotion may easily confuse the two. Such emotion need not be limited to the type involved in life-threatening situations. The simple act of reading a poem may induce the reader to read those lines in a deliberately and artfully heightened emotion. The reader knows that the lines are literally untrue but cares not due to the pleasure they bring. The "fallacy" lies in one's knowing the poem's unreal base but wishes to continue reading of his own accord even though that accord is not totally his own. Ruskin quotes two lines from the poet Kingsley:
"They rowed her across the rolling foam
The cruel, crawling foam."
Ruskin writes that "The foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl." The poetic power of these lines lie in their ability to inject sufficient grief in the mind of the reader to suspend, however temporarily, that reader's ability to recognize the impossibility involved. Ruskin terms this ability to produce a heightened and false awareness as the pathetic fallacy.

Ruskin admits that all poets use this fallacy to varying extents, though only those of the first rank can make the resultant passion flow naturally and smoothly from a subjective reading to an objective acceptance. He provides an example of the improper use of the pathetic fallacy from Coleridge:
"The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can."
Ruskin accuses Coleridge of fancying that the poem has "a life to it, and will, which there are not; confuses its powerlessness with choice, its fading death with merriment, and the wind that shakes it with music."

For execrable lines like these, the problem is that the fallacy is not pathetic at all. The poet has unwisely chosen to mix mutually exclusive emotions that jar the reader with their widely varying polarities rather than seduce the reader with their evolving harmonies. If the erring poet writes plodding lines like this, then if the reader accepts their plodding as a smooth segue from objectivity to subjectivity, then this reader is far more at fault than the poet. Ruskin portrays such readers as having "a mind and body in some sort too weak to deal fully with what is before them or upon them." Contrariwise, for those readers who recognize the clangor of clashing emotions when they see them, Ruskin has only the highest praise. Based on those who accept or reject the wrongful use of the pathetic fallacy, Ruskin sees three ranks: The first is "the man who perceives rightly because he does not feel and to whom the primrose is very accurately the primrose because he does not love it." The second is "the man who perceives wrongly because he feels and to whom the primrose is anything else than a primrose." The third is "the man who perceives rightly in spite of his feelings and to whom the primrose is forever nothing else than itself." This man is untouched by the associations that may crowd around the lines. Rather inexplicably, Ruskin adds a fourth category, "the men who, strong as human creatures can be, are yet submitted to influences stronger than they, and see in a sort untruly because what they see is inconceivably above them."

The difference between poets of the first rank and those of the second rank is that the former can pick and choose their temporary movement from objectivity to subjectivity while the latter make this journey with a too frequent wild abandon. First rank poets have a steady and sure command in their use of the pathetic fallacy. They can evoke the acuteness of sincere feeling engendered while simultaneously being able to command the tropes to do so. Paradoxically, second rank poets misuse their ability to write well to deceive the reader into accepting a simulacrum of genuine feeling. For such poets, Ruskin has only the deepest of scorn.
It's a facsimile of the 1906 George Allan edition of the original text with Ruskin's "rearrangements" in 1883 as printed by the Ballantyne Press. It's a great buy if interested in Ruskin's terming of "imagination." It would have been nice if the publishers had an editor's introduction or something of the like, but I suppose Elibron wanted to save some money.