RUSKIN was not aware of the variety in esthetic speculation that marked the century before his; he was not widely read. He was ignorant of Jonathan Richardson who influenced Reynolds, and he seems never to have read Hume, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Gerard, Baillie or Spence. The empirical suggestions of the earlier French writers were unknown to him except as they appeared in Burke Essay and he had not yet given himself the privilege of losing patience with the confusing subtleties of German idealism. Far from being a handicap, his ignorance left him unembarrassed by too great familiarity with the theoretical chessboard. Locke, Hogarth, Burke, Reynolds and the Academicians he knew, and they inevitably suggested the problems which had been the chief theoretical interests of the eighteenth century. To certain theories he took an aversion, as for instance the literal theory of Imitation supported by Opie and Fuseli; but with other opinions he fell into line. His formal divisions of subject, his initial concept of art, his terms themselves are specifically reminiscent.
His introduction is formal, therefore, but not metaphysically complex. The development of composite theory that characterises the latter part of Modern Painters had not yet begun. He skims along the edge of difficulties with no apparent realization of their depth.