Thursday, May 8, 2008

all the canvas that ever suffered from French brushes

Lest I give the idea that 19th century aesthetic theory is all heavy lifting and Schopenhauer, here's John Ruskin, telling a joke:

"The other day at Bruges, while I was endeavoring to set down in my note-book something of the ineffable expression of the Madonna in the Cathedral, a French amateur came up to me, to inquire if I had seen the modern French pictures in a neighboring church. I had not, but felt little inclined to leave my marble for all the canvas that ever suffered from French brushes. My apathy was attacked with gradually increasing energy of praise. Rubens never executed - Titian never coloured anything like them. I thought this highly probable, and still sat quiet."

John Ruskin, Modern Painters, I.I.v, "Of Ideas of Truth"

Well, I think it's funny. Ruskin's comic relief certainly helps a person move through Modern Painters. I don't want to exaggerate - there may be a joke every 20 pages or so. The long sections "On Leaf Beauty" and "On Cloud Beauty" may be hilarious, but I'm not counting on it.

Still, a joke here and there beats none at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment