The Victorian Morality of Art: An Analysis of Ruskin's Esthetic, by Henry Ladd

The Victorian Morality of Art: An Analysis of Ruskin's Esthetic, by Henry Ladd

The Victorian Morality of Art: An Analysis of Ruskin's Esthetic, by Henry Ladd

The Victorian Morality of Art: An Analysis of Ruskin's Esthetic, by Henry Ladd

Excerpt

The theory of painting, architecture and sculpture which established John Ruskin's influence in Victorian times scarcely outlived his century. Even before 1914 it became evident that Ruskin's significance to an industrial age rested more in his criticism of the economic order of Victorian society than in his theories of the beautiful. This was partly Ruskin's own fault. In the latter part of his career he invariably introduced a social, moral or religious interest into the brilliant but dictatorial criticism of pictures. Such interests tended to obscure the esthetic principles which he believed he was still following.

Gradually his theory of art was smothered under the very ramifications it had developed. Even before his death his principles were extravagantly distorted by selected quotations which were chosen largely for the purpose of supporting a morality already discarded by a younger generation. The artistic revolution at the end of the century and the increasing twentieth century contempt for Victorian phraseology completed the burial of the intellectual skeleton that now rests within the first dozen of the thirty-nine volumes on library shelves. Although the ghosts of many of his dearest beliefs still flutter through the pages of conservative treatises, his opinions, for more than twenty years, have been considered dead. A few quotations, moreover, concerning the relation of morals to art have become entirely dissociated from their proper . . .

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