“Of Classical Landscape”
1. According to Ruskin, what were some features of the classical (i. e. Greek) notion of divinity?
--sense of a higher power within nature, 74
--to the Greek imagination the gods were a synthesis of allegorical and real beings, 76
2. On what evidence are his observations based? How does their view of the relationship between nature and divinity differ from a modern view? (78-79; to the modern world nature seems dead, 74)
3. What kind of landscapes did the Greeks prefer? (81)
4. What does Ruskin find faulty in eighteenth-century landscape paintings of classical settings?
5. What kind of nature surrounded the Greeks? (80) How is this different from that which surrounded the 19th century British?
6. What kinds of environments pleased the Greeks? (the comfortable and pleasant, 82, as opposed to the sublime)
7. In what kinds of representations did they excell? (of the human form, 80)
8. In what contemporary strata of society does Ruskin find analogues to the Greek myths?
9. How will Ruskin’s notion of the “classical” prove useful for interpreting and criticizing his own age?
10. What is the relation between Ruskin's concepts of the "classical" and "modern" and eighteenth century notions of the beautiful and the sublime?
“Of Modern Landscape”
1. According to Ruskin, what are some features of the “modern landscape”? Did any of these surprise you?
2. How do you think notions of “cloudiness,” “love of liberty,” "love of mountains," and tendency “to deny the sacred element of colour” may be related to contemporary notions of romanticism? (84-86)
3. What are some implications of “modern cloud-worship”? (84-85) Are these charges similar to later definitions of Victorianism, modernism, post-modernism, and so forth?
4. On what basis do you think he complains of the relative drabness of the present: “[The medieval ages] were, on the contrary, the bright ages; ours are the dark ones”? (87)
5. What attractive features are associated with his notions of the middle ages? (87) On what evidence do you think he may base these conclusions?
6. What are some consequences of the alleged modern lack of faith? (88) Does Ruskin seem to find inevitable his conclusion that “All sincere and modest art is, among us, profane.” (89)
7. In compensation for loss of faith, where do humans find solace?
--men steal away to mountains, 89-90
--sincere and modest art is now secular, 89
8. What does Ruskin find fallacious in what he defines as Renaissance principles of art?
--concern with artifical, from a valuing of Beauty above Truth, 89; "To powder the hair, to patch the cheek, to hoop the body, to buckle the foot, were all part and parcel of the same system which reduced streets to brick walls, and pictures to brown stains" (89).
9. Why do Victorians seem to turn to historical art? What does Ruskin seem to think of Victorian historicism (of which his Stones of Venice would be one of the greatest examples)?
--"All other nations have regarded their ancestors with reverence as saints or heroes; but have nevertheless thought their own deeds and ways of life the fitting subjects for their arts of painting or of verse. We, on the contrary, regrad our ancestors as foolish and wicked, but yet find our chief artistic pleasure in descriptions of their ways of life" (90).
10. To what, by contrast, does he think the greatest modern painters will turn?
11. Why in our modern (Victorian) times will the painter become more important than the poet? What, once again, is the greatest task available to the artist/human soul?
12. What kind of seeing is assumed in his statement, “To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion--all in one” (91).
Vol. 4, “The Mountain Gloom”
1. What seems to have shifted since vol. 1 in Ruskin’s portrayal of nature?
2. Why is the mountain now associated with “gloom”? Has the focus of his critical method shifted?
3. In your view, does Ruskin convey accurately the mental life of the Alpine peasants? Which aspects of their lives does he stress? Do you think he may be projecting some of his own emotions into his statements about the lives of the inhabitants?
4. Why are many of the buildings in decay? (96) Which features of the culture seem to repell him?
5. Why do these regions convey to Ruskin warning of God’s “indignation against sin”? With whom is he indignant?
6. How is this anger associated with thoughts of beauty? Do you see resemblance between Ruskin’s views here and those expressed in his descriptions of “The Slave Ship”?
Vol. 5, The Lance of Pallas” (1860)
1. Why must art convey human themes? Does this view contradict that found in vols. 1 and 2, or merely recast it? What now has happened to the earlier celebration of pure brightness and beauty of color?
2.What is faulty about art “produced by minds in the pure religious temper” (99)? Has he come to redefine notions of a “religious temper”?
3. What is the purpose of the passage describing the carcass of the ewe and death of the butterfly? (100-101) How does this convey the union of the physical and spiritual nature of humankind?
4. What must be the moral subject matter of great art? (101) How must human beings confront the dark and terrifying forces of life? Which kind of art had seemed to represent these conflicts? (Is this consistent with his earlier periodizations? Has he changed his notion of "classical" literature?)
5. Why do you think he doesn't use a Christian example to convey the allegorical image of truth? (Or for that matter, a modern landscape?)
6. What is the reference indicated in the chapter title, and why is it the significant symbol for his discussion? (104-105) Is the notion that Athena [seems to have] deceived us in our mortal need consistent with the chapter's concluding passages? (105-106)
7. How does Ruskin’s rhetoric convey his themes?
8. Do aspects of his observations here remind you of Tennyson? Of Darwin?
Vol. 5, "The Two Boyhoods" (1860)
What is the purpose of Ruskin's contrast between the boyhoods of Giorgione and Turner? Does the art of each reflect his respective environment?
How is Turner's boyhood different from that of Giorgione, and to what exent does he seem representative of the "modern" artist?
--Giorgione's environment seems unrelievably majestic, 107
--Turner raised amid ugly and vulgar city scenes, described with eloquence, 108-109; he incorporates affectionate memories of the early world into his art; yet Ruskin also notes that he saw a marred, war-torn humanity.
--Turner was however only able to begin his lifework during a visit to the country--compare the Pre-Raphaelites and 19th century urban painters of rural sites. He too, like Giorgione, needed to see a vision of beauty in order to paint. (115): "Those pale, poverty-struck, or cruel faces,--that multitudinous, marred humanity--are not the only things that God has made. Here is something He has made which no one has marred." (115)
--the contrast with the beauty and peace of nature liberates, "Freedom at last." (115)
A basic organizing theme of Victorian poetry was the contrast between the limitations of human behavior and the beauty of landscape, as seen in Tennyson, Arnold, Hopkins and others. (In Hopkins's "God's Grandeur," for example, it becomes an indictment of fallen human nature.)
Does Ruskin seem to find Turner's maturation in the city and among the vulgar a good or bad environment for an artist?
How does Ruskin resolve the tension between Turner's need to paint marred men and beautiful landscapes?
--His ideal for a "modern painter" finally comes to include both, landscape and man, clouds and gloom. Heroic resistence, pity and a sense of human humiliation are blended in the tragic artist (117).
--Ruskin's former proccupations are merged, as the painter will represent the full range of perceived experience, God's grandeur and man's depravity, 117
--Giorgione sees man's "strength and immortality . . . and the form of man as "deathless, calm with power, and fiery with life." (116)
--Turner sees man's works as "busily base"--he paints human solitude and humiliation (116-117), human labor, sorrow, death, must paint tragic subjects (118-119)
--Thus Turner turns to painting clouds and death. He is a painter of contrasts, and clouds only one half of this reality; Giorgione painter of a less disturbed and tension-ridden beauty.
What is the function of the passage on the Napoleonic Wars? Why is death different for Turner than it had been for Giorgione? (118-119)
--according to Ruskin, the nineteenth century had experienced a bleaker fate than any other; the Victorian age was peculiarly struggling
Ruskin may be projecting somewhat; Turner's paintings seem more uplifted by the sublime and less preoccupied by human marginality and woe than Ruskin here implies.
How would you describe the style of the concluding passage?
--prose style reflects and influences poetry of period
What seems to be the point of the Epilogue? What does it mean to affirm that "nothing but art is moral"?
How is his statement that beauty teaches truth different from assumption of his romantic predecessors? Is closure provided by the final intensification of biblical rhetoric and affirmation of calm?