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THE EDINBURGH LECTURES.
With the religions principles—in all essentials—of the Puritans, Ruskin had also their courage, and was as frank as Milton, He shrank not from calling the laws of painting and of architecture God's laws, or from buttressing his arguments with texts. "We treat God," he says, in the introduction to The Seven Lamps of Architecture, " with irreverence by banishing him from our thoughts, not by referring to his will on slight occasions. His is not the finite authority or intelligence which cannot be troubled with small things. There is nothing so small but that we may honor God by asking his guidance of it, or insult him by taking it into our own hands; and what is true of the Deity is equally true of his Revelation. We use it reverently when most habitually; our insolence is in ever acting without reference to it, our true honoring of it is in its universal application. I have been blamed for the familiar introduction of its sacred words. I am grieved to have given pain by so doing; but my excuse must be my wish that those words were made the ground of every argument and the test of every action." He told his Edinburgh audience that he thought it unlikely that iron and glass would ever become important elements in architectural effect, because in that case the illustrations of the Bible would no longer be clear and intelligible, He traced, in a passage full of beauty and truth, the "delight in natural imagery " manifested in the books of Scripture, and alleged that, as Christianity had brought the love of nature into Paganism, so the return of Paganism, at the Renaissance, had destroyed this love of nature. The Evangelical, as distinguished from the High-Church and Broad-Church parties, may claim all Ruskin's writings, until he was nearly forty, as their own, and no other religious school can point to a literary monument of even approximate splendor. It must be added that, in works published after 1860, he has referred to the Evangelical school with deepening bitterness. He would say, I think, that the ultra-Protestants and Puritans of the day had learned to keep their Bible for theological purposes; that, when he quoted Scripture about architecture or painting, they smiled at 'his simplicity; and that, when he made the New Testament a manual of political economy, they laughed at him outright; and that therefore he turned from them in sorrowing contempt.
In 1856 appeared two additional volumes of Modern Painters. The third treats "Of Many Things," and it is manifest at a glance that Iiuskin has, to some extent, left the lines* which he had marked out for himself in the earlier volumes. He frankly tells the reader that he will no longer be " so laboriously systematic." Cherries are cherries, whether gathered by handfuls from the branch or tied upon sticks by the old women of Pomona with a view to their becoming impressive in the eyes of customers. "I purpose henceforth to trouble myself little with sticks or twine, but to arrange my chapters with a view to convenient reference, rather than to any careful division of subjects, and to follow out, in any by-ways that may open, on right hand or left, whatever question it seems useful at any moment to settle." Accordingly the volume contains eighteen essays, labelled chapters, on "many things" of great importance connected with art, but which would have been of pretty nearly the same value—an extremely high value—although the two preceding volumes of Modern Painters had not gone before them, and although the two succeeding volumes of Modern Painters had not come after them. Of the eighteen essays, the five devoted to the discussion of the Ideal in art are perhaps the most valuable. The false ideal is investigated under the opposite types of the religious and the profane, the true under the successive phases of purism, naturalism, and the grotesque. The treatment might have been more strictly logical if the naturalist ideal had been viewed not merely as a phase of the true ideal, but as the only true ideal—the one imaginative and perfect art—purism and grotesquerie, even of the best kinds, being considered as deviations from the right, path.
The defect is, however, but formal, find the substantial doctrine of these five chapters is that the central and highest art is that which, " accepting the weaknesses, faults, and wrongnesses in all things that it sees, so places and harmonizes them that they form a noble whole, in which the imperfection of each several part is not only harmless, but absolutely essential, and yet in which whatever is good in each several part shall be completely displayed." This may, or may not, be a satisfactory definition of the mode in which imagination uses reality in producing the highest art; but it is essentially right in recognizing the clement of imagination as indispensable to its production.
The third volume of Modern Painters, unlike its two predecessors, is pictorially illustrated; and very noble the illustrations are. In the preface a few important remarks occur on the relation between executive faculty and critical judgment. "It is probable," says Ruskin, "that the critical and executive faculties are in great part independent of each other;" but he adds "that a certain power of drawing is indispensable to the critic of art." In this I am quite sure that he errs. The man who can draw will, I admit, have a practically immeasurable advantage over the man who cannot draw, in discerning between good execution and bad, in seeing that one line is delicately and rightly, another line coarsely and wrongly, drawn; but if there is one law more than another capable of absolute demonstration in respect of all arts whatever, I believe it to be the law that, in feeling the power, or appreciating the value, of works of art, no acquaintance of their methods of production is necessary. Accurate perception, true and comprehensive sensibility — refinement, imagination, sympathy, intelligence— are indispensable to a right judgment in art; but acquaintance with the methods of art, skill or practice in the execution of art, are not wanted. This rule is universal. The critie's question never is how the work of art has been produced; it always is whether the work of art is in itself beautiful, great, impressive. From culinary art upwards this holds good. The critic of a pudding is not a cook, but an epicure. The critic of a coat is not a tailor, but a man of taste and fashion. The critic of art is not one who can delineate forms or lay on colors, but one who has an eye and a heart for the permanent beauty, the perennial sweetness and light, the ideal loveliness, that is less gaudy and more glorious than the trimnesses of fashion or the brilliant piquancies of mode. It is just as unreasonable to say that I cannot intelligently admire the clouds in a drawing by Turner of the dawn because I cannot draw clouds, as it would be to say that I cannot admire the clouds of actual morning, because I cannot tell how God touches their wings with gold and their heads with crimson as they fly along the sea. Nor do we say anything inconsistent with this fundamental canon of art-criticism when we admit that a subtle, intense, and exquisite charm will be felt in masterly workmanship by those who have themselves done enough in drawing or painting to appreciate the supreme difficulty and rarity of consummate artistic execution. There is a thrilling delight, practically, I suppose, confined to those who have some skill, or who have long tried to attain some skill, in drawing, experienced in looking at leaves and fruit by Leonardo da Vinci, at mills and faces by Rembrandt, at ship-tackling and gray seas by Willian Vandeveldc, at Paul Potter's neighing horse, at Turner's tree branches, or at the lightning-like touches of Landsecr's pencil, when, evidently in a few minutes, he realizes the twinkling movements and separate individualities of a score of deer trotting away in perspective. In point of fact, it is because this charm is so powerful as to be commonly irresistible, and thus to divert the attention from the meaning and soul and ideal beauty of art, that the critic requires to be on his guard against it. It is hardly conceivable that Bentley could have failed so cgregiously as a critic of Paradise Lost if he had not been mighty as a grammarian.
In the fourth volume of Modern Painters Ruskin pushes on his illustration of Turner in a succession of valuable chapters on Turnerian picturesque, Turnerian topography, Turnerian light, and Turnerian mystery. The main contents of the volume, however, consist of an investigation of mountain beauty in a number of chapters, in which the writer claims attention almost as much in character of geologist as of art-critic. It concludes with two chapters, one on the mountain gloom, the other on the mountain glory, in which the poetic richness and splendor and modulation of the language transcend, perhaps, any previous efforts of Euskin, while their searching and terrible glances into the human toil and pain that are untouched amidst the magnificence of nature's pageantry give earnest of a more tragic power, and a more strong and strenuous and unflinching determination to look into the very fact of things, than he had yet revealed.
Four years—1856-1860—elapsed between the publication of the fourth and that of the fifth and last volume of Modern Painters. In the interval Ruskin issued his Elements of Drawing, one of the most delightful as well as practically serviceable of all his books. In some points, as he now sees, its teaching is not safe. It attaches less importance to outline than is assigned it in The Laws of Fesole, which embody his latest views on drawing. The illustrative sketch given of a boat—a nice and even subtle bit of pen-work—is, comically enough, a boat turned outside in, the framing ribs, on which the planks are nailed, being exposed to view. But as a sketcher's companion the book is beyond all rivalry. Not only is its instruction lucid and simple, but it is made vividly fascinating, by the author's catching enthusiasm for the beauty of that nature to which he sends the student. In the chapter on color and composition, there is a survey of the principles of composition— essentially, therefore, of the principles of art-criticism—so comprehensive in its brevity, so right in its simplicity, so sound