John Ruskin: Lectures on Landscape


tree study by john ruskin 1845
{Tree study by John Ruskin, 1845}

This week I have been listening to John Ruskin's Lectures on Landscape and the ideas and thoughts presented have been particularly inspiring to me. Here is a expert from the first lecture I thought you may like to know about:

"But though the virtue of all painting (and similarly of sculpture and every other art) is in passion, I must not have you begin by working passionately. The discipline of youth, in all its work, is in cooling and curbing itself, as the discipline of age is in warming and urging itself; you know the Bacchic chorus of old men in Plato's Laws. To the end of life, indeed, the strength of a man's finest nature is shown in due continence; but that is because the finest natures remain young to the death: and for you the first thing you have to do in art (as in life) is to be quiet and firm—quiet, above everything; and modest, with this most essential modesty, that you must like the landscape you are going to draw better than you expect to like your drawing of it, however well it may succeed. If you would not rather have the real thing than your sketch of it, you are not in a right state of mind for sketching at all. If you only think of the scene, "what a nice sketch this will make!" be assured you will never make a nice sketch of it. You may think you have produced a beautiful work; nay, perhaps the public and many fair judges will agree with you; but I tell you positively, there will be no enduring value in what you have thus done. Whereas if you think of the scene, "Ah, if I could only get some shadow or scrawl of this to carry away with me, how glad I should be!"—then whatever you do will be, according to your strength, good and progressive: it may be feeble, or much faultful, but it will be vital and essentially precious." (paragraph 13, pg. 8)

This passage about the virtue of painting and how spirit must be infused in the work you create is more than just limited to painting landscapes, but really is about all creative endeavors.

unabridged electronic version of Lectures on Landscape
unabridged audio version
additional electronic books by John Ruskin