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Cook & Wedderburn
Cook & Wedderburn
Edward Tyas Cook & John Wedderburn
The Works of John Ruskin
Primary published
Ruskin's assessment of Wilson is scattered throughout his works. Vol. 39 (1912) contains Ruskin's reference to Wilson's drawing D273A Circus of Caracalla, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, which had been owned by him.
Vol. 3 Modern Painters, vol. I, 1843, part 2, section 1, chapter 7, p. 188: Passing to the English School, we find a connecting link between them and the Italians formed by Richard Wilson. Had this artist studied under favourable circumstances, there is evidence of his having possessed power enough to produce an original picture; but corrupted by the study of the Poussins, and gathering materials chiefly in their field, the district about Rome - a district especially unfavourable, as exhibiting no pure or healthy nature, but a diseased and overgrown flora, among half-developed volcanic rocks, loose calcareous concretions, and mouldering wrecks of buildings, and whose spirit I conceive to be especially opposed to the natural tone of the English mind,- his originality was altogether overpowered; and though he paints in a manly way and occasionally reaches exquisite tones of colour, as in the small and very precious picture belonging to Mr Rogers [P94A or P177C], and sometimes manifests some freshness of feeling, as in the Villa of Maecenas of our National Gallery [P71 or P137], yet his pictures are in general mere diluted adaptations from Poussin and Salvator, without the dignity of the one or the fire of the other. Vol. 3 Modern Painters, vol. I, 1843, part 2, section 1, chapter 7, p. 230: Compare [unfavourably] the hybrid classicism of Wilson with the rich English purity of Gainsborough. Vol. 3 Modern Painters, vol. I, 1843, part 2, section 2, chapter 3, p. 317: [Re chiaroscuro:] Both the Poussins, Salvator, and our own Wilson, are always wrong, except in such few effects of twilight as would, even in reality, reduce the earth and sky to two broad equalized masses of shade and light. Vol. 7 Modern Painters, vol. V, 1860, part 9, chapter 11, p. 411: Accordingly the colourists in general, feeling that no other than this general sunshine was imitable, refused it, and painted in twilight, when the colour was full. Therefore, from the imperfect colourists - from Cuyp, Claude, Both, Wilson, we get deceptive effect of sunshine; never from the Venetians, from Rubens, Reynolds, or Velasquez. Vol. 9 The Stones of Venice, p. 435, Appendix 11: ...those persons who only like his [Turner's] early pictures, do not, in fact, like him at all. They do not like that which is essentially his. They like that in which he resembles other men; which he had learned from Loutherbourg, Claude or Wilson: that which is indeed his own they do not care for. Vol. 12 Lectures on Architecture and Painting, 1853, Lecture 3, p. 125: There are multitudes of pictures by Turner which are direct imitations of other masters; especially of Claude, Wilson, Loutherbourg, Gaspar Poiussin, Vandevelde, Cuyp, and Rembrandt. Reviews and Pamphlets on Art, V, Pre-Raphaelitism, p. 373: From Niccolo Poussin and Loutherbourg he [Turner] seems to have derived advantage; perhaps also from Wilson; and much in his subsequent travels from far higher men, especially Tintoret and Paul Veronese. Vol. 13 Notes on the Turner Collection of Oil-Pictures at the National Gallery, 1857, pp. 102-3: View in Wales (about 1800). This picture has been rightly described as a 'direct imitation of Wilson'; but Wilson is treated with injustice in the next sentence: 'it might be mistaken for a work of that master'. It does not yet, in any single point, approximate to Wilson's power - nor, even in his strongest time, did Turner (in oil) give serenely warm tones of atmosphere with Wilson's skill. This work is a sufficiently poor imitation of Wilson's commonest qualities; and it is interesting to see what those common qualities are. We are promised a view in Wales; but, because it is to be idealized, and in the manner of Wilson, it has not a single Welsh character. p. 114 ...partly to the continued influence of Wilson and Morland, that the garden of the Hesperides is so particularly dull a place. p. 145 If you can draw at all accurately and delicately, you cannot receive a more valuable lesson than you will by outlining this bough [the lowest and longest on the left of a pine in Childe Harold], of its real size, with scrupulous care, and then outlining and comparing with it some of the two-pronged barbarisms of Wilson in the tree on the left of his Villa of Maecenas [P71]. p. 375 ...although these sketches give some of the painter's [Turner's] first, strongest and most enduring impressions of mountain scenery, and architecture of classical dignity,- their especial value to the general student is that they are in no respect distinctively , but could only be known by their greater strength and precision from studies such as Gainsborough or Wilson might have made at the same spots. Vol. 14 Academy Notes, 1859, pp. 225-26: De Hoogh, Cuyp, Claude, Both, Richard Wilson, and all other masters of sunshine, invariably reach their most telling effects by harmonies of gold with grey, giving up the blues, rubies and freshest greens. Vol. 14 Academy Notes, 1875, pp. 290-91: [...] the strangeness of a foreign country making an artist's sight of it shrewd and selective, may produce a sweet secondary form of beautiful art - your Spanish Lewis, your French Prout, your Italian Wilson, and their like - second-rate nevertheless, always. Not Lewis, but only Velasquez, can paint a perfect Spaniard; not Wilson, nor Turner, but only Carpaccio, can paint an Italian landscape. Vol. 15 The Elements of Drawing, II Sketching from Nature, 1857, p. 93: ...beware of getting into a careless habit of drawing boughs with successive sweeps of the pen or brush, one hanging to the other [...] If you look at the tree-boughs in any painting of Wilson's you will see this structure, and nearly every other that is to be avoided, in their intensest types. You will also notice that Wilson never conceives a tree as a round mass, but flat, as if it had been pressed and dried. Vol. 16 Cambridge Inaugural Address, 1858, p. 197: The only great painters in our schools of painting in England have either been of portrait - Reynolds and Gainsborough; of the philosophy of social life - Hogarth; or of the facts of nature in landscape - Wilson and Turner. In all these cases, if I had time, I could show you that the success of the painter depended on his desire to convey a truth, rather than to produce a merely beautiful picture [...] Vol. 16, The Two Paths, 1859, pp. 414-15: ... in this England of ours, since it first had a school, we have had only five real painters;- Reynolds, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Richard Wilson and Turner. [...] Thus [the reader] will find me continually laughing at Wilson's tree-painting; not because Wilson could not paint, but because he had never looked at a tree. Vol. 21, The Ruskin Art Collection - Rudimentary Series, 1878, p. 288, no. 276: Sketch by Richard Wilson, in English lowlands, given to show the state of landscape art just before Turner broke into it with a new light. Wilson is a thoroughly great painter, and this drawing is not to cast contempt upon him, but upon the kind of teaching which landscapists received in the eighteenth century. Vol. 22, Lectures on Landscape: I Outline, delivered 1871, 1906, pp. 29-30, n. 1: Here, on the other hand, is a sketch by Richard Wilson of a scene near Rome, in which the whole effort is to give you this feeling of being actually at the place on a summer afternoon - in which he has entirely succeeded, with a few almost shapeless and dim pencil shadows, and without one articulate form. [...] This sketch of Wilson's is most visibly a pencil study - you don't mistake it for the scene itself, and yet it will make you warm to look at on a cold day. Vol. 22, Lectures on Landscape: III Colour, delivered 1871, 1906, pp. 63-64: Here is an equally typical Greek-school landscape, by Wilson - lost wholly in golden mist; the trees so slightly drawn that you don't know if they are trees or towers, and no care for colour whatsoever; perfectly deceptive and marvellous effect of sunshine through the mist - "Apollo and the Python." Vol. 33, The Art of England, 1884, Lecture VI, pp. 377-78, para. 165 para. 166: I believe that with the name of Richard Wilson the history of sincere landscape art, founded on a meditative love of Natiure, begins for England: and, I may add, for Europe, without any wide extension of claim; for the only continental landscape work of any sterling merit with which I am acquainted, consists in the old-fashioned drawings, made fifty years ago to meet the demand of the first influx of British travellers into Switzerland after the fall of Napoleon. With Richard Wilson, at all events, our own true and modest schools began, an especial direction being presently given to them in the rendering effects of aerial perspective by the skill in water-colour of Girtin and Cozens. [Transcription in progress]