The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin

Writings on the Picturesque: A Note to Chapter Three

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

Among the more important works on the picturesque one may number the following: William Gilpin, Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty; On Picturesque Travel; and on Sketching Landscape: to which is Added a Poem, On Landscape Painting (London, 1792); Richard Payne Knight, An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste, 3rd ed. (London, 1806); Uvedale Price, An Essay on the Picturesque, as Compared with the Sublime and the Beautiful; and on the Use of Studying Pictures, for the Purpose of Improving Real Landscape, rev. ed. (London, 1796). Secondary works include W. J. Hipple, Jr., The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Picturesque in Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetic Theory (Carbondale, 111., 1957); Christopher Hussey, The Picturesque, Studies in a Point of View (London and New York, 19Z7); and John Gage, "Turner and the Picturesque," Burlington Magazine, (1965), 16-25, 75-81. Professor Gage's brief article, perhaps the best study of the picturesque, not only corrects some of the outlandish claims made about the effect of this aesthetic upon romanticism but also well summarizes the critical theory and shows the role the picturesque played in the work of a major artist. Ruskin, who, as Professor Gage points out, was not interested in Turner's picturesque period, never discusses his favorite artist in terms of the conventional picturesque.

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