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It does not seem to me that it is enough understood that colour
cannot be indifferent; it must be either thoroughly good and right, or
it is a blemish. There are many subjects which do not want colour
at all, and of those which are the better for it, none are bettered unless
it be very good : hundreds of painters spoil their thoughts by painting
them ; they might be beautiful draughtsmen, but they ruin all by putting
on bad colour; and they forget that colour is the most trite and
commonplace truism of art unless it be refined. I passed a French
sign to-day : " A Parbre Vert" The word " vert " adds marvellous little
to the idea of the tree ; and the green paint adds just as little to the
drawing of it unless the green be precious as colour.

1 [As in Turner's picture : see Vol. XXXV. p. 001.]
XXXVI. G



98 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [i84g

Now, I am not sure whether I can tell you what I mean by pre-
ciousness in colour; I should have fancied from those rats 1 paws that I
saw of your drawing, that your eye for colour was exquisite; and yet,
if I had seen this picture for the first example of your work, I should
have said you had no eye for colour at all, and would never paint.
Whether you have or have not, I cannot yet tell : this only I can
tell you, that the colours of the landscape in that picture are wrong,
not merely cold and lifeless, but discordant. They would produce on
the eye of a good colourist actual suffering, like that which singing
out of tune would cause to a musician ; and exactly as the musician
would wish the person who sang to speak plainly, so the colourist
would wish you to leave colour alone, and draw only. Still, those
rats' 1 paws make me think you have it in you ; but you will have to
work hard to get at it, even to get the sense of what is right. If
you will go to the National Gallery and look at the picture of Van
Eyck, 1 you will see in the woman's gown what I mean by precious
colour, in green, and if you will copy carefully ( ladies do go do they
not? to the National Gallery to copy) Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne, 2
I think the light will come upon you all at once : I doubt if you will
get it by going on from nature, and I cannot show you what I mean
unless I could have a talk with you ; only pray recollect this, that
painting is not squeezing the colour you want on your palette, and
laying it on point-blank, blue when you want blue, and yellow when
you want yellow. Colour is not to be got so cheaply ; anybody could
paint if that were all. Good colour is to be got only by a series of
processes; deliberate, careful, and skilful. Suppose you want a clear
green, for instance ; you must lay a ground ; first of pure white that
goes over all your picture; then, if you want your green deep and
full, I believe the best practice is to lay a coat of red solidly first
perhaps two or three processes being needed to get this red what you
want. That being ready to dry and fix, you strike over it the green
with as few strokes as possible, so as to run no chance of disturbing
the under colour. For another kind of green you lay white first; then
yellow, pure, upon the lights, and subdued upon the shadows; then
you glaze the whole with transparent blue; and so on, there being
different processes for every kind and quality of colour all this re-
quiring the greatest skill and patience and foreknowledge of what you
have to do you having often to bear to see your picture white where
it is to be yellow, and brown where it is to be grey, and red where



1 ["Jean Arnolfini and his Wife," No. 180: for other r
see ^ ol. XII. pp. L'oo', 2~>~, 40.5 ; and below, p. 4!H).]



eferencea to the picture,
a [No. ;5"> : for numerous other references to the picture, see the (General Index.]



1849] PAINTERS AND DAUBERS 99

it is to be green, and blue where it is to be purple, and so on. Of
all this which is the Art you seem to me to have no idea; you go
straight at it, as a monkey would (and with something of the same
love of mischief, I think) : many artists, so called, of the day, do it
too, and many of them draw cleverly with their heavy colour; but
they are not Painters, though they think themselves so; they can't
Paint they can merely draw and daub. I only know three Painters
in the Royal Academy Mulready, Etty, and Turner. Of these, Etty
hardly ever does more than sketch, though he sketches the right way.
Turner has methods of his own, suited for his own purpose, and for
nobody else's. Mulready has got some awkward crotchets about using
his colour thin on the lights and letting the white come through, and
often spoils his work by treating it like water-colour and stippling;
but he is still the best guide you can have, if you have influence with
him to make him frank with you. If he says you paint well at present,
he is flattering you and treating you like a girl ; tell him so, and make
him speak out, and he will teach you marvellous things.

Now, I have a good deal more to say to you (as I shall not fill
my paper, I needn't write across this sheet) but I shall be travelling
(I hope) to-morrow, and busy next day ; and it is time you should have
this, in case you are beginning another picture : so I will merely tell
you that I thought your birds, one and all, quite delicious, and better
in mere painting than the rest of the picture; and I was much struck
by the thoughtfulness of the whole but you must feel as well as think,
and be unhappy when you see gentlemen doing nothing but smoke and
lean over a railroad bridge, with fancy dogs. As I said before, that
is all very well for Punch, but it is not fit to be painted seriously.
You are capable of great things; do not affect the Byronic melange.
I believe that in him it was affectation not conscious affectation, but
actual affectation nevertheless and if you mean to do anything really
good or great, do not condescend to the meanly ludicrous. I think you
might paint Dante if you chose ; don't paint Dickens. Cultivate your
taste for the horrible and chasten it : I am not sure whether you have
taste for the beautiful I strongly doubt it but you can always avoid
what is paltry; your strong love of truth may make you (as a painter)
a kind of Crabbe, 1 something disagreeable perhaps at times, but always
majestic and powerful, so only that you keep serious, but if you yield
to your love of fun it will lower you to a laborious caricaturist. I
haven't time to be modest and polite, nor to tell you how much I
respect your talent, nor how glad I should be if / could do anything

1 [Compare Vol. X. p. 231 ra., where Crabbe is instanced as a typical "Naturalist."]



100 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [18*9

like what is in your power : I can do nothing, but I have thought about
art, and watched artists, more than most people, and I am quite sure
that I am right in the main respecting what I have told you ; and
when I come back to London, if I can have some nice quiet talk with
you, or if you will come and draw with me and help me, as you kindly
said you would, I think I may perhaps be able to set some of these
matters in stronger light for you. Meantime accept my best wishes for
your far advance in the art you love, and believe me ever, faithfully
and respectfully yours, J. RUSKIX.



To GEORGE RICHMOND

VRVAY, 20th May [1849].

MY DEAK RICHMOND, Since I wrote to you from Folkestone I have
been travelling every day or, as for the last week, climbing among
snow ; but I am now established on the Lake of Geneva for the next
three weeks, and I and my father and mother are all anxious, in the
first place, to hear of your health ; in the second, to hear if there be
any chance of your coming to us. Not, I suppose, at any rate for
some time. By the report of the few papers we can get here, the
London season seems busy, and the exhibitions interesting; nor need
you be in haste, for there is still far too much snow on the mountains
to admit of pleasant excursions among them, and the Alpine roses are
not in bloom yet. By the time they are, we shall be, I trust, in
Chamouni ; and when I think the best time for the mountains is coming,
I will write to you again. Yet no time can be wrong; for here, just
now, I see everything in new aspect; the blue hills and lake are con-
tinuously seen through arches and thickets of apple blossom, and in
the meadows they are making narcissus hay for all the rich grass
they are just beginning to cut is white over with the lily-like narcissus. 1
I have been to Chamouni and over the Tete Noire, with some diffi-
culty, over much snow ; their spring is not begun yet, nothing showing
its face but the Soldanella ; three weeks will make a Paradise of it. If
you can come, do ; one has a curious sensation of being shut in by
the hills from all the noise and wickedness of the world. I hear of the
Vatican's being undermined and Bologna bombarded, 2 as if it were no
affair of mine ; and am quite prepared to hear of the Grand Canal

1 [For Raskin's description of the narcissus-meads of Vevay, see Modern Painters,
vol. iii. (Vol. V. p. :>84).J

2 [References to (Jaribaldi's defence of the Roman Republic against the French,
and the Austrian capture of Bologna.]



1849] "THE SEVEN LAMPS" 101

being filled up with the Doge's palace. One can't attain such equa-
nimity as that anywhere but among the Glaciers. In Chamouni they
have had no revolutions a house or two knocked down, indeed, and
two old women carried oft' by the avalanches nothing more. I have
not been living in Chamouni since I could draw trees; and I feel as
if I could do something with those pine rascals we shall see. I think
if you will come and help me and draw me some St. Jeromes, 1 we
should give a good account of them. By-the-bye, I have been to the
Grande Chartreuse too got wet going up, and couldn't finish an argu-
ment I got into with one of the monks, on the impropriety of his
staying up there and doing nothing. 2 He compared himself to Moses
discomfiting Amalek by holding up his hands. I begged him to observe
that Moses only came to that when he was too old to do anything
else. 3 I think I should have got the better of him, if it hadn't been
for the weather. But my cold is quite gone ; I cured it by sliding down
the Montanvert on my way back in the snow. I do hope you will be
able to write to me that you are better also, and are coming to us.

I hope you have received your copy of the Seven Lamps, and that,
as your name was among the first, it is a good impression. The
plates failed me terribly, and I think I must have done them on too
light steel; but I shall get experience in time and do better one or
two were quite blundered and I had not time to replace them. I did
not choose to give more to this thing than the beginning of the year.
But I think it may do some good as it is, and I hope some of it may
interest you; the definition of the picturesque in the sixth chapter 4 I
am rather proud of. Do you recollect our first talk about that in
your studio in the place which perhaps now Is not? You will be
disappointed by what is said on another subject interesting to you
architectural abstraction 5 but it was too huge a question to treat
where it comes in.

I left especial orders with our gardener to be sure that there was
plenty of cream when Mary and Julia and Laura and Tom who I
hope has recovered quite go out to gather strawberries ; judging by the
blossoms on the banks here, I should say it was coming near the time.
My love to them all. I wish you could bring them to Chamouni with
you. Our kindest regards to Mrs. Richmond and your brother.
Ever, dear Richmond, most affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.

1 [Probably a reference to discussions on a passage in Modern Painters: see
Vol. IV. p. 319,, and a letter to the Rev. W. L. Brown,, above, p. 81.]

2 [See Preeterita, Vol. XXXV. p. 470.]

3 Exodus xvii. 11, 12.]

4 [See Vol. VIII. pp. 235-237-]

5 [ibid., pp. 170-172.]



102 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [18*9

To hi* FATHER

CHAMOUNI, Sunday [2GM Aug., 1849].

We have had a very nice English service here to-day, and are to
have an afternoon one the best sermon I ever heard in this private
way. Our afternoon service will prevent my calling on the Abbe
till four, but I hope to find him then. Meantime I went down to
near Couttet's house, to see the place where the Black Lady had been
seen. 1 I sent for the children who had seen her, and was really
delighted by their gentle and simple manner; really these Chamouni
children are very charming creatures, and it is a pleasure to have
any subject of conversation with them. I don't depend on their vera-
city, however, so much as on their simplicity ; all I can say is that
if there be any deception now, they are very much improved in their
mode of getting it up since I was last here. I saw three little girls,
Constance, Rosine, and Caroline, and one little boy, Amboise, who
all spoke French ; another little fellow, very fidgety all the time,
could only speak through Judith^ interpretation. Constance is about
twelve years old, very intelligent, with a quiet, sensible face ; Hosine,
a sharp little creature about nine. The last witness, whom I examined
separately from the rest, was little Elizabeth Balmat, the daughter
of the Syndic. All these children had seen for some hours, during
Saturday and Sunday last, the figure of a woman in a black dress,
with something white across the bosom, a white band across the fore-
head, and a black round bonnet or cnp. It leaned with its arms
folded against the trunk of a pine within two hundred yards of
Couttet's house, and was only visible at a certain distance; the
children went with me to the place and showed me how far "deja
ici on commenca de la voir," Constance said, when about ten yards from
the tree a young pine beside the fence of the usual cattle path from
the Arve bridge. I cross-examined them as to the appearance of the
phantom, but could get no more details satisfactorily. They seemed
not to have observed it accurately, but there was no appearance of
any understanding among them. They turned indeed once or twice
to each other, but it had simply the look of the kind of reference
which two people who have seen the same thing naturally make to
each other when any doubt is raised respecting it. The answers were
given with the most perfect quietness and simplicity, as also Elizabeth
Balmat's : the latter child said, " C.a in "a fait trembler beaucoup"; but
the others said it had not frightened them, except a little boy who

1 [For another version of tliis (iho.-t Story, sec Vol. XXXIX'. p. 7-H.]



1849] A GHOST STORY 103

saw it first with Constance, and who ran home in a great fright.
Couttet went to the place with them on Sunday last, while the
phantom was visible. The first thing he did was to cut the branches
off the tree, thinking some accidental shadow might deceive the chil-
dren ; but this made no difference. Then he went and stood himself
beside the tree trunk ; the figure was then seen by the children
beside him ; he moved away, and it returned to its place. Monsieur
L'Abbe was next sent for, but could make no impression on the
Black Lady. I am just going to see what he will say about it.

(Evening.) I have seen the Abbe, and been down again to the
haunted tree, and repeated Couttet's experiments, the apparition being
"at home" with the same negative results. The younger priest was
down there also, and exceedingly puzzled ; the strongest point of the
case is the thorough fright sustained by three of the children. It
appears that one of them last Saturday night could hardly be kept
in his bed, and was continually crying out that he saw the figure
again ; and to-day Judith Couttet brought a little boy from the next
village and told him when at the place to look and tell her if he
saw anything. The blood ran into his face, and she saw (she told me)
that "ca lui fit une resolution." She asked him, by way of trial,
whether it was not a " poupet " that some one had put there.

" Ce n'est pas un poupet c'est grand," the child answered. " C, a
est tout habille en rouge?" asked Judith. "Non C'est habille tout
en noir." "Mais ca est joli a voir, n'est ce pas?" "Non, ca iVest
pas joli du tout, du tout, c'est bien laid." The child then turned aside
his head, put it against Judith's side, and would not look any more.

I think this a choice bit. I was afraid to tell it to Effie for fear of
making her nervous. Please keep this letter carefully, as I have no time
to make an entry in my diary. You will find another detail or two
in EffiVs. It is a curious instance of the way in which stories improve
the moment they leave first hands, that, as I was returning from my
questioning of Constance Couttet, a man told me that the ghost had
spoken to her, and " told her to look after her cows." The fact on
which this very pastoral idea of a ghostly communication was founded,
you will find in Effie's letter.

To the Rev. W. L. BIIOWN

VENICE, llth December, 1849.

DEAR MR. BIIOWN, Well might you wonder at your last kind letter
receiving no answer never was a letter received more gratefully, or read
with more pleasure, or kept with more care in the intention of answer



104 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [18*9

by paragraphs; and even with such care it is now locked in my desk
at home, and I am here forgotten by all my friends except you, and
forgetting all my duties without exception, in my first (real and suffi-
cient) examination of Venetian architecture. Your letter was anything
but "cold blooded"; it was by far the most valuable I received upon
its subject if it had been less valuable it would have been at once
answered ; as it was, I put it aside while I went into the mountains
I received it at Vevay and when I came home I found my wife
much better and very desirous of some change of scene. She asked me
to take her to Venice, and as I had need of some notes for the sketch
of Venetian art which you would perhaps see advertised by Smith and
Elder, I was glad to take her there. Once again in Italy with the
winter before me, I have engaged in a more detailed survey of the
Italian Gothic than I ever hoped to have obtained ; finding, however,
the subject so intricate that I have forgotten or laid aside everything
for it. I have not written a single line to any of my friends, except
two necessary letters, since I left home, and my wife has been four
weeks in Venice without seeing, in my company, more than the guide-
books set down as the work of half a day. I wish, nevertheless, that
I could get the book you so kindly have named to me here; that
subject never loses its interest, and it would relieve me from the
monotony into which sections and measurements necessarily fall when
first collected. It is, however, doubtless a forbidden book here, but my
father tells me he has already got it, and it will be the first I ask
for on my return. I am truly happy that I had some share in leading
you to an inquiry which you have found so interesting, and not less
so that I have now your aid in myself pursuing it. So interesting, I
say, as if it were an examination into a fly's foot, when, if interesting
at all that is, if showing some probable chance of success it could
hardly but become the one absorbing study of one's life, and I am
ashamed to think, at this moment, of the eagerness with which, for a
month back, I have been catching at quarter of inch differences in
the width of bits of marble.

There are indeed many other subjects of more living interest, and
too many of sorrow, here. But I am at present altogether petrified,
and have no heart nor eyes for anything but stone. There is little
good to be done, were I otherwise. The Italians are suffering, partly
for sins of past generations, partly for follies of their own : the sins
cannot be undone, nor the follies cured ; and, I fear, their cup is not
yet half full of their punishment. The government is as wise and
gentle as a Romanist government well can be, and over a people of
another language, the soldiery of which the town is half full, singularly



1849] THE CONDITION OF ITALY 105

well-conducted and quiet, and I think the best customers they have
for, now, the chief articles of Venetian commerce roasted chestnuts
and stewed pippins. Their miseries are their own causing, and their
Church's, but they are pitiable enough still. Famine was written on
all faces when we first arrived here, and hopelessness is on them still ;
most have lost friends or relations in the war, and all have lost
half their living, and their only plan of recovering it is by spending
a remaining quarter in votive candles and music. I never saw a people
so bigoted in the real sense so pious in church and impious out of it.
However, all this I can better talk over with you at home, where I
hope we shall see you next spring. I purpose staying here still for a
month, and then returning homewards by Florence and Geneva; but
we cannot reach home till the end of March, and then we must stay
in London. I do long for another chat at Wendlebury, but I cannot
see how to manage it at present; however, I will write to you as soon
as we reach England (and I hope, once or twice before). You have
not said a word about your young folks, but it is heartless work
writing to a person when you do not know whether he is to get your
letter this year or the next. However, if you have half-an-hour to
spare now, and could send me some account of them here Poste
Restante it would give me some happy home thoughts in the midst
of this city of ruin. Remember me to them all, and to Mrs. Brown,
and to George when you see him, and believe me ever, dear Mr. Brown,
most affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.

To HENRY CoLE 1

VENICE, December IQth, 1849.

SIR, Owing to the temporary loss of a letter I did not receive
yours of the 4>th October until yesterday.

Permit me to return you my thanks for your obliging notice of
my Essay, and to express my regret that I am unable to meet your
wishes respecting the Journal of Design. 2

There is much truth in what you say respecting the inevitable
tendencies of the age; but a man can only write effectively when he
writes from his conviction and may surrender the hope of being a
guide to his Age, without thinking himself altogether useless as a Drag.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient humble servant,

J. RUSKIN.

1 TAfterwards Sir Henry Cole, K.C.B. : see Vol. XVI. pp. xxvi.-xxvii.]

2 [The Journal of Design and Manufactures (a periodical conducted by Cole from
1849 to 1852) contained in No. 8 (October 1849), vol. ii. p. 72, a short notice of
The Seven Lamps."]



106 LETTERS OF RUSKIN VOL. I [isso



1850

[Kuskin remained at Venice till the spring of this year, and then settled in
Park Street for the season. A letter to his mother describing a "crush/ 1 and
one to his father describing a Queen's Drawing-room, are given in Vol. IX. pp. xxxi.-
xxxii. He was hard at work on The Stones of Venice throughout the year.]

To RAWDON BROWN l

DENMARK HILL, April 22nd [1850].

DEAR MR. BROWN*, We arrived in all comfort at home on Saturday,
and in this morning's confusion I catch up the first piece of paper
that comes to hand to thank you for your packet, which has this
moment arrived, containing all the drawings in perfect safety. I cannot
enough express my thanks to you or to Signer Vason, both for the
choice and execution of the drawings the subjects being, all but the
water door, entirely new to me, arid your crested Morosini door 2 quite
invaluable hardly less so the chain ornament, of which I have not a
single instance. I must beg you to express to Signor Vason my especial
thanks for the careful verity of the drawings, which I can quite well
perceive in their manner, though I have not seen the original subjects
and for the measurements, without which I should still have been
at some loss in making use of the drawings. I do not recollect at
this moment who Signor Vason is, and I can hardly judge whether
the hundred francs which I herewith send to Messrs. Blumenthal will
be considered by him as anything like an acknowledgment of his kind-
ness; if not, may I beg you to tell me frankly what I ought to send
him, and delay the payment of the smaller sum until I have amended
my error ? I have taken the liberty of requesting M. Blumenthal to
pay it to T/OM, that you may either give it to Signor Vason now, or
reserve it until you write to me.

Trusting, therefore, to you to see that Signor Vason is satisfied, I
am going to ask him to give me one measurement more. For it seems

to me that you are somewhat premature in
vour eureka of horseshoes and that for all



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