The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin

Ruskin on the Moral and Political Implications of the Picturesque: A Note to Chapter Three

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

Fors Clavigera exposes not the moral or artistic implications of the picturesque, but the political and economic ones when Ruskin comments that "to Professors of Art, the Apennine between Lucca and Pistoja is singularly delightful to this day, because of the ruins of these robber-castles on every mound, and of the pretty monasteries and arcades of cloister beside them. But how little we usually estimate the real relation of these picturesque objects! The homes of the Baron and Clerk, side by side, established on the hills. Underneath, in the plain the peasant driving his oxen. The Baron lives by robbing the peasant and the Clerk by blessing the Baron" (27.310-311).

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