Landscape Painting

Landscape Painting

Landscape Painting

Landscape Painting

Excerpt

The chapters which follow are based on lectures given during my first year as Slade Professor to the University of Oxford. The Slade professorship is a peculiar institution, very different in intention from the professorships of Art history which are usual in the universities of America and the Continent, but which (with one exception) do not exist in England. Its founders, Ruskin and Sir Henry Acland, did not intend that the professor should give his pupils a detailed survey of the history of art, or should make them proficient in such branches of the subject as stylistic criticism and iconography. They intended, in Ruskin's words, that he should 'make our English youth care somewhat for the arts'.

The kind of art which interests young people, arouses their curiosity and excites them to argument, is the art of their own time: and it seemed to me that the Slade Professor's first course of lectures should be enough concerned with the past to allow of a settled perspective, but should also touch, and if possible clarify, the puzzles of modern painting. I chose the subject of landscape painting, because this, in an even fuller sense than Ruskin realised, was the chief artistic creation of the nineteenth century: and without a clear understanding of nineteenth-century art, no evaluation of contemporary painting is possible. People who have given the matter no thought are apt to assume that the appreciation of natural beauty and the painting of landscape is a normal and enduring part of our spiritual activity. But the truth is that in times when the human spirit seems to have burned most brightly the painting of landscape for its own sake did not exist and was unthinkable. By the time he reached the third volume of Modern Painters Ruskin realised this, and wrote a section entitled Of the Novelty of Landscape in which . . .

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