Studio: international art — 19.1900

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John Ruskin


" What greater sarcasm can Mr. Ruskin

pass upon himself?" asked Mr. Whistler in "The
Gentle Art of Making Enemies," "than that he
preaches to young men what he cannot perform !
Why, unsatisfied with his own conscious power,
should he choose to become the type of incom-
petence by talking for forty years of what he has
never done ? " And to like purpose we read in the
same author's " Ten o' Clock" that Ruskin was
"learned in many matters, and of much experi-
ence in all, save his subject." Sir Edward Poynter,
in his " Lectures on Art," " burns with indignation "
at Ruskin's heresies about Michelangelo, and
ascribes them to " his ignorance of the practical
side of art." Sir Edward Poynter and Mr. Whistler,
while belittling or denying the claims of Ruskin as
an artist, proceed to praise very highly his genius
as a writer. It is curious that a yet more violent
critic of Ruskin than either of those just men-
tioned takes a precisely contrary view of the subject.
In a slashing article, of the good old Keats-killing
kind, which appeared in the " Edinburgh " a few
years ago, the reviewer derides Ruskin's literary
works, but extols his pictures. "In one respect
only," he says, "we are prepared to give Mr.
Ruskin nearly unqualified admiration, namely, in
regard to his own artistic work as far as
it has gone; with the exception of those unhappy
illustrations to the ' Seven Lamps,' his own draw-
ing, of architecture especially, is admirable. When
two or three of his own landscapes were exhibited
XIX. No. 84.—March, 1900.

some years ago in Bond Street along with his
Turners, our impression at the time was that they
were equal to most of the Turner drawings in that
collection ; at all events, his drawings of portions
of St. Mark's, exhibited more recently at the
Society of Water-Colours, were of the highest class,
and such as indeed, of their kind, it would not be
possible to surpass." One is reminded of the
reviews of a certain illustrated book, from which
it appeared, according to one critic, that it would
have been tolerable without the illustrations, and
according to another, tolerable without the letter-
press. The real truth with regard to Ruskin is, I
submit, that he was a writer of consummate genius,
and also an artist of real, though restricted, talent.

My proposition with regard to Ruskin as an
artist is not easy to prove, for Ruskin's original
drawings are somewhat inaccessible. From his
work, however, done for the engravers, and shown
in "Modern Painters" and "Stones of Venice,"
and in occasional reproductions in colour included
in some of Mr. George Allen's recent republications,
a good idea may be formed of Ruskin's gifts as an
artist. Ruskin, it should always be remembered,
illustrated his own books, and the combination of
literary genius and artistic skill which they display
is probably unique. The examples from Turner
given in " Modern Painters" were either etched
by Ruskin himself from the originals or engraved
from copies in which he had translated Turner's
work out of colour into black and white. The
plates "after" Raphael and other masters were
similarly made from Ruskin's drawings of the
original pictures. The other illustrations in his

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