Wilson Online Reference
Cook & Wedderburn
Edward Tyas Cook & John Wedderburn
The Works of John Ruskin Library Edition
George Allen
London, UK
Date of Publication
39 vols., 1903-12
Primary published
Source Institution
Sackler Library, University of Oxford
Document Inventory/Accession No
928.9 Rus.Co.1
More Information
Ruskin's assessment of Wilson is scattered throughout these 39 volumes of his complete published works. Vol. 39 is a comprehensive index and Wilson appears on p. 675.
Full Text
Vol. 3 Modern Painters, vol. I, 1843, part 2, section 1, chapter 7, p. 189: 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 his 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], 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. 4 Modern Painters, vol. II, 1846, part 3, section 2, chapter 4, pp. 307-8: [ ... ] abstractions there are in which the form of one thing is fancifully indicated in the matter of another; as in phantoms and cloud shapes, the use of which, in mighty hands, is often most impressive, as in the cloudy-charioted Apollo of Nicolo Poussin in our own Gallery, which the reader may oppose to the substantial Apollo in Wilson's Niobe [P90B]; and again, in the phantom vignette of Turner [ ... ] for those painters only have the right imaginative power who can set the supernatural form before us, fleshed and boned like ourselves. Vol. 5 Modern Painters, vol. III, 1856, part 4, chapter 18, pp. 407-8: More or less respectful contemplation of Reynolds, Loutherbourg, Wilson, Gainsborough, Morland, and Wilkie, was incidentally mingled with his [Turner's] graver study; and he maintained a questioning watchfulness of even the smallest successes of his brother artists of the modern landscape school. Vol. 6 Modern Painters, vol. IV, 1856, part 5, chapter 14, p. 238: [ ... ] an engraving of the Mer de Glace, by Woollett, after William Pars, published in 1783, and founded on the general Wilsonian and Claudesque principles of landscape common at the time [ ... ] will serve, not unfairly, to show how totally inadequate the draughtsmen of the time were to perceive the character of mountains [ ... ] Vol. 7 Modern Painters, vol. V, 1860, part 9, chapter 11, p. 411: Accordingly the colourists in general, feeling that no other than this yellow 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 thus multitudes of pictures by Turner which are direct imitations of other masters; especially of Claude, Wilson, Loutherbourg, Gaspar Poussin, Vandevelde, Cuyp, and Rembrandt. Reviews and Pamphlets on Art, V, Pre-Raphaelitism, 1851, 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 [n. in an unofficial catalogue] 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's Pilgrimage, Tate, London (N00516)], 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 Turnerian, 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. Appendix - Continuation of the 'Laws of Fésole', 1887-88, p. 500: I had for some time in my rooms at Oxford a little water-colour drawing which I had bought at a modern exhibition, for the sake of its great truth in representing colour in shadow against afternoon sunlight. This was done wonderfully in each case for a large number of separate objects; but it was not done harmoniously over the whole picture. I had by chance placed beside it a light pencil sketch of a sunset on the tower of Cecilia Metella [D273A] by Richard Wilson, in which there was no effort of a complete effect on any one object; but everything was absolutely harmonious in the degree of its incompletion. I never looked at the Wilson without feeling myself warm, and in Rome; but when I looked at the other drawing, I only felt myself in the water-colour exhibition, and was obliged at last to put it away. 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 - Catalogue of Reference Series, 1872, p. 38: 117 The Roman Campagna. Pencil drawing by Richard Wilson, R.A. [D273A] 118 Landscape. Pencil sketch by Richard Wilson R.A. [D178] The Ruskin Art Collection - Rudimentary Series, 1878, p. 288, no. 276: Sketch by Richard Wilson [D178], 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. Nor is the sketch given as faultful in manner; on the contrary, it is wholly exemplary in manner: it is only faultful in representation of fact, not one of the lines here pretending to represent trees rendering truly any one fact of stem or foliage, but only recording for the painter the position of masses which had interested him, and out of which he felt himself able to compose an impressive picture. [ ... ] It is entirely artistic, and, in the eighteenth-century import of the word, gentlemanly in the highest degree, and this quality is one rarely to be obtained in the nineteenth century. Vol. 22, Lectures on Landscape: I Outline, delivered 1871, 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, pp. 63-64: Here is an equally typical Greek-school landscape, by Wilson [probably D273A] - 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 whatever; perfectly deceptive and marvellous effect of sunshine through the mist - "Apollo and the Python." Vol. 33, The Art of England, 1884, Lecture VI, delivered 1883, pp. 377-78, para. 165: Among the least attractive of the mingled examples in your school-alcove, you will find a quiet pencil-drawing of a sunset at Rome, seen from beneath a deserted arch, whether of Triumph or of Peace [D273A]. Its modest art-skill is restricted almost exclusively to the expression of warm light in the low harmony of evening; but it differs wholly from the learned compositions and skilled artifices of former painting by its purity of unaffected pleasure and rest in the little that is given. Here, at last, we feel, is an honest Englishman, who has got away out of all the Camere, and the Loggie, and the Stanze, and the schools, and the Disputas, and the Incendios, and the Battaglias, and busts of this god, and torsos of that, and the chatter of the studio and the rush of the corso; - and has laid himself down, with his own poor eyes and heart, and the sun casting its light between ruins, - possessor, he, of so much of the evidently blessed peace of things, - he, and the poor lizard in the cranny of the stones behind him. para. 166: I believe that with the name of Richard Wilson the history of sincere landscape art, founded on a meditative love of Nature, 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.
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