Thursday, September 8, 2016

'Lectures on Architecture and Painting' by John Ruskin

{ The best of John Ruskin }

"Mingle prudence and foresight with imagination and admiration, and you have the perfect human soul."

On nostalgie de la boue, the mythologization of the past and the real meaning of 'romance'.

“And can you really suppose that what has so much power over you in words has no power over you in reality? Do you think there is any group of words which would thus interest you, when the things expressed by them are uninteresting?”

“What are your daughters drawing upon their cardboard screen as soon as they can use a pencil? No Parthenon fronts, I think, but the ruins of Melrose Abbey, or Linlithgow Palace, or Lochleven Castle, their own pure Scotch hearts leading them straight to the right things, in spite of all they are told to the contrary. You perhaps call this romantic, and youthful, and foolish.”

“The real and proper use of the word romantic is simply to characterize an improbable or unaccustomed degree of beauty, sublimity, or virtue.”

“Mingle prudence and foresight with imagination and admiration, and you have the perfect human soul. But the great evil of these days is that we try to destroy the romantic feeling, instead of bridling and directing it.”

“Utopianism is not our business – the work is.”

“You must expect at first that there will be difficulties and inconsistencies… but they will soon be conquered if you attempt not too much at once.”

“No person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect. If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder.”

“If he could not draw it completely, he drew it at least in a way which should thoroughly show his knowledge and feeling of it.”

“Of course all good poetry, descriptive of rural life, is essentially pastoral, or has the effect of the pastoral on the minds on men living in cities; but the class of poetry which I mean, and which you probably understand by the term pastoral, is that in which a farmer’s girl is spoken of as a ‘nymph,’ and a farmer’s boy as a ‘swain,’ and in which, throughout, a ridiculous and unnatural refinement is supposed to exist in rural life, merely because the poet himself has neither had the courage to endure its hardships, not the wit to conceive its realities… You find an affectation of interest in mountains, clouds, and forests, yet whenever they write from their heart, you will find an utter absence of feeling respecting anything beyond gardens and grass, [a] total absence of sentiment on any subject but humanity.”

“Of all the wastes of time and sense which Modernism has invented - and there are many - none are so ridiculous as this endeavor to represent past history. What do you suppose our descendants will care for our imaginations of the events of former days? Suppose the Greeks, instead of representing their own warriors as they fought at Marathon, had left us nothing but their imagination of Egyptian battles; and suppose the Italians, in like manner, instead of portraits of Can Grande and Dante, or of Leo the Tenth and Raphael, had left us nothing but imaginary portraits of Pericles and Miltiades? ... What do we care [our descendants] will say, what those nineteenth century people fancied about Greek and Roman history! If they had left us a few plain and rational sculptures and pictures of their own battles, and their own men, in their every-day dress, we should have thanked them.” 

John Ruskin. Stones of Venice, Vol. III. "Lectures on architecture and painting". 1853.
Egon Schiele. Dead City III. 1911. Leopold Museum, Vienna.
This article was originally published on a retired domain and has been republished for archival purposes.

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