You are on page 1of 17



Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

The MIT Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Assemblage.
1. John Ruskin,End of Market,
St. Croydon

John Macarthur
The Heartlessness
of the Picturesque:
Sympathy and Disgust
in Ruskin's Aesthetics

John Macarthuris a lecturer at the Uni- For, in a certain sense, the lower picturesque ideal is an emi-
versityof Queensland, Brisbane,Australia. nently heartlessone; the lover of it seems to go forth into the
world in a temper as merciless as its rocks. All other men feel
some regret at the sight of disorder and ruin. He alone delights
in both; it matters not of what. Fallen cottage - desolate villa -
deserted village - blasted heath - mouldering castle - to him,
so that they do but show jagged angles of stone and timber, all
are equally joyful. Poverty, and darkness,and guilt, bring their
several contributions to his treasuryof pleasant thoughts. The
shattered window, opening into black and ghastly rents of wall,
the foul rag or strawwisp stopping them, the dangerous roof,
decrepit floor and stair, ragged misery, or wasting age of the
inhabitants, - all these conduce, each in due measure, to the
fullness of his satisfaction. What is it to him that the old man has
passed away his seventy years in helpless darknessand untaught
waste of soul? The old man has at last accomplished his destiny,
and filled the corner of a sketch, where something unsightly was
wanting. What is it to him that the people fester in that feverish
misery in the lower quarterof the town, by the river?Nay it is
much to him. What else were they made for?what could they
have done better?

John Ruskin, "Of the Turnerian Picturesque,"in Modem

Painters,vol. 4 (6: 19-20)'

John Ruskin's disgust at the picturesque is palpable and ex-

emplary in passages such as this. For him, the inhabitants of
the picturesque scene are unconscious of their "untaught

Assemblage 32: 126-141 ? 1997 by the

waste of soul." But for such distress to go unnoticed by the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology heartless aesthete in a search for tone and shadow is another

> *,

A- -

,' J

a, t1I
! 1. , eI
o _~~~~~~~~ .* '

It ' .
assemblage 32

and parallelkind of waste:the affliction of artwith a can- Disinterest

kerous failure of sympathy.Yet the movement of the pas-
Ruskin'sproposalto cure the picturesque with sympathy
sage, from its propositionalforms to the description of a
might seem to be in opposition to eighteenth-centurycon-
scene, particularand exemplary,is like that supposed in the
cepts of aesthetical disinterest.The invention of modern
term "picturesque."We say a thing is "like a picture"not
aesthetics is synonymouswith the concept of disinterested-
in orderto use it as such, but to walk in or out of it, inter-
ness. In the eighteenth century the problem of aesthetic
changing, back and forward,the flatnessof possession with
theory had been how to articulatethe relation of things of
lived experience or theoretical insight.
value and the exercise of taste. Ruskin points out that aes-
We might think, and rightly,that this passageis confes- theticism creates an opposite problem of the relation of
sional, describing feelings that Ruskinknows well. Read in taste to the ugly, the distorted,and the pathological. This
isolation, the passagemight seem a renunciation. In fact, it relation had alreadybeen problematizedin the firstperiod
is an overly affecting call for a quite subtle modification of of the picturesque around the general question of how to
the picturesque that Ruskin is proposing. For him, the pic- conceptualize a high taste for low objects. In the theory of
turesque is a startingpoint, one that it is unclear he ever Uvedale Price this gradientof taste is merely a tactical mo-
surpasses.It is the received aesthetic of his age, which he ment in evincing knowledge of the hierarchyof genre.2We
believes can be given a cause and origin (lack of sympathy) exercise our taste on Dutch paintings of peasantsin cottages
and then surpassedinto a more complete aesthetic project only to expressthe liberalityof our appreciationof the land-
for which the picturesque had given us a taste. The pictur- scapes of Claude Lorrain;similarly,our love for the ordi-
esque is "heartless";nevertheless,it can lead us to nobility. naryagriculturalcountrysideof Britaindoes not signify an
Indeed, the movement that occurs here in Ruskin'scom- inabilityto appropriatethe Alps or the Bay of Naples.
mentaryis little more than an iterationof the structureof Price's interest in the picturesque, which is to say, in the
the picturesque idea; we give up the picture for the ability ordinary,in the ugly and deformed, is supposed to be an
to split viewing into concept and affect. Ruskin'siteration is explorationof the range of taste, so as to better understand
significant, however, not only in the historyof the propaga- and agree on a common standardof proprietyin taste. But
tion of the concept of the picturesque, but in its conceptual Price was unable to persuadehis critics that his proposalof
structure.It is on the basis of Ruskin'suptake that the pic- the value of low objects in evincing disinterestwas not, in
turesque reiteratesin modern perceptualistculture. Ruskin the end, a perverseinterest in disgust.Afterall, Price as-
writes of the picturesque as if it were a naturalpropensityto sumes a special value for the ugly and deformed, which is
taste that requiresthe development of an aesthetic theory to that they can improve in our appropriationof them while
discipline and instructit. Rathermore obscurely, he deals the beautiful is indifferentto us. Ruskin'simage of the per-
with the picturesque as a preexistingtheoretical problem of versityof picturesque practice is, then, the repetition of
genre, disinterest,and affected disgust. In moving between a critique from the turn of the century, which he must
these two constructionsof the picturesque, Ruskin invents have been familiarwith through his reading of Humphry
for it a temporal mechanism by which the picturesque can Repton. But, in general, the exaggerationand critique of
be both a present lack and a historical origin. Price's position by Repton, J. C. Loudon, William


Marshall,and others is directed at Price'staste and his vari- nor take pleasure.4He offersa very simplistic hierarchyof
ance from propriety.3He had made himself ridiculous with genre based on the distance that can be achieved from the
his appetite for views of higglers, and by imagining banditti exact imitation of nature and the particularityof things.5
on his lawn, and no one would have thought to be con- The higher genres do not call on our appetites and desires,
cerned with the effect of Price's aesthetics on the subjects of do not put us in a relationshipwith objects. Rather,moral
his view. This is the force of Ruskin'spassage,which im- judgments are called on to be exercised over general ideas
bues the foolishness of aesthetic distancing with a sense of in the realm of civil life. Price argues against Reynolds that
injustice and moves the social and political context of taste the picturesque was a kind of generic transcoding;like, he
from outside (the choice of objects properfor gentlemen to says,the plays of Shakespearein which are embedded rustic
judge) to inside (the subject/object relation). Ruskin'spas- and comic scenes and subplots that provide a reflection
sage asks us to briefly imagine what should be impossible on the great themes of the play. He neverthelessfollows
and must be avoided:that crippled laborersand tubercular Reynolds on the issue of detail; finding that the better genre
children might ask us why we look at them "likethat." paintersare those who are not obsessed with mechanical
imitation and who expressa knowledge of their subject as
As I will argue in this paper, much of the mechanism of genre. Few recordsexist of Ruskin'sOxfordlectures of 1875
aesthetical disgust continues in Ruskin in relation to the on Reynolds'sDiscourses,but the notes that surviveshow a
picturesque, except that Ruskin'sdisgust is largely directed vehement continuity of the idea of a nobility of taste and a
at the picturesque ratherthan through it. But before look- hierarchyof painting (22: 493-507). Ruskin'smain dis-
ing in detail at the chapter on the picturesque in volume agreement with Reynolds is over his denigrationof detail:
four of Modem Painters,I want to examine three relations Ruskin thinks that the truth lies in practiced observation
between Ruskinianand eighteenth-centurytheory that all and claims that Reynolds would have agreed with him had
have to do with articulationsof genre hierarchyand disin- he known the early Florentines ratherthan the mean vanity
terest. The firstdeals with the hierarchyof nobility in art it- of the Dutch in painting "the spicula of haystacksand the
self and Ruskin'sresponse to Joshua Reynolds.The second hairs of donkeys"(22: 494). A furtherdefinition of the
concerns the use of disinterestedness.The last addresses Ruskinianpicturesque, then, would be a picturesque liber-
picturesquenessas a description of how the Britishare af- ated from its earlier generic positioning, one that rescues
fected by foreign filth and melancholy. detailed observationfrom the odium of technique, and that
adds questions concerning the truth of imitation that are at
Like Reynolds, Ruskin distinguishes between base pleasure
the heart of the Western tradition.
and noble truth as contending reasonsfor our use of art.
Reynolds thinks that only the lower genres aim at pleasing The second point about Ruskin'srelationswith eighteenth-
while all high art requiresthe development of cultivated centuryaestheticsaddressesthe function of disinterestedness.
society and conceptualization. If we were to imagine some Low subjectsand disgustare included in Price'ssystemof
persons innocent of painting of great art (those "fromthe tasteto evince disinterestednessas an attributeof a noble ob-
banks of the Ohio or from New Holland"), according to server.Price is anxiousto appeardisinterestedat the level of
Reynolds, they would neither comprehend artistictruths taste in the ruralaffairsfor which he is politicallyresponsible.

assemblage 32

The scenic improvementsto a gentleman'sestatemust not quirethem. By the mid-nineteenthcentury,art,and particu-

seem to be in any way determinedby, or even understoodin larlyarchitecture,had become thoroughlyideologicalin the
relationto, agriculturalimprovementsfor fear of besmirching construalof national,class,and religiousinterests.Ruskinis
their liberality.The picturesqueof the periodaround 1800 participatingin thatprocessby which aestheticsthen becomes
(at the height of what E. P. Thompson calls the English the generalrealmof both the appropriationand productionof
Counterrevolution)is an ideology of nobilityin which good art;he inventsthe role of the bourgeoiscriticas a position
taste,consideredan autonomousrealm of judgment,autho- privilegedby his interestin artitself,an interestguaranteedby
rized social and political franchise.6The historyof the con- a disinterestin the artmarketor the politicalvalence of
cept of disinterestin English aestheticsis more complex than particularartworks(18: 433-58).9
stricturesagainstsensualpleasure.Its relationwith "interest"
is not one of simple oppositionbut of articulationbetween The last, and somewhat slighter, point about disinterested-
spheresof attentionand concern.7It was thoughtthat the dis- ness concerns the Englishness of the picturesque. In its
interestednessnecessaryfor membersof parliamentto vote in rhetoricalfinality, we might think that the argument of the
the nationalinterestcould be guaranteedby hereditaryland- "heartlessnessof the picturesque"passagefrom Modern
holding. By contrast,a merchantmight see each decision on Painterswould lead on to a discussion of ruralhousing re-
taxes,war,or the poor laws as effecting changes in the price form in England, an issue with which picturesque aesthet-
of tradablecommodities.For eighteenth-centurythinkerssuch ics is intimately bound up and with which is it identified.10
as Reynoldsand Price,the formationof standardsof proper But Ruskin is not asking us to drop pencils to legislate or to
tastewithin an aristocraticsocietywasanalogous,interestin repairthatch in responseto his description.We know this
land guaranteeingdisinterestedjudgmentin both spheres,and because a footnote to the passagetells us that it is based on
the parallelbetweenthem naturalizingeach.8While Ruskin an observationin Amiens, which is to say, beyond the re-
condemnsthe picturesquefor its failureof sympathyand sponsibilities of Ruskin'sEnglish readers.Descriptions of
affect,this is not a critiqueof the concept of aestheticaldisin- the raggedmisery of cottagersare the staple of picturesque
terestednessso much as an inversionof the eighteenth-century culture, whether in Goldsmith or Gainsborough,whether
positionsof the interest/disinterest pair.Ruskin'sfranchiseas a depicted as divertingvisual characteror as a cry for reform
disinterestedartcriticand theoristcan be guaranteedin an au- or both. In any case, the programof the picturesque in the
thentic human interestin the objectsof the picture,a pre- eighteenth century is an aesthetic of the ordinaryand famil-
parednessto rejectthis particularpicturein sympathyfor the iar, of England. It is curious and significant, then, that
starvinglaborersit depicts;that is, in an awarenessof the inter- Ruskindoes not find England picturesque. One of Ruskin's
section of artand polity.This awarenessis not yet (in this, the most markeddevelopments of the picturesque is to see it as
earlierhalf of Ruskin'scareer)the broaderprojectfindingan an issue of foreign affairs.Ruskin'sfirstpublished work,
integratedrelationof artand politicaleconomy,but rather "The Poetryof Architecture,"begins with a contrastof En-
concernshow artitselfshould be governed.In the eighteenth glish and French cottages in which the English one is too
century,the concept of disinterestand aestheticsin general prim and comfortableto please the eye of taste, as it an-
had functionedas an ideologyof taste,an aristocratictastefor swersto "a sentiment of mere complacency" (1: 17). The
artworksthatwere still largelyemblematicof the wealthto ac- French cottage can please us because of an "impressionof


having once been fit for prouder inhabitants.... Every tion here because, as we shall see, his is an immanent cri-
markof dilapidation increases this feeling: while these very tique of the picturesque intended to redeem it. Grotesque
marks. . . are all delightful in themselves."Ruskin has art and the "lowerpicturesque"is given a foreign site, in
transferredall that had been familiarlysaid of English cot- melancholic Italyand benighted Savoy.These aesthetic
tages to a more extreme, foreign picturesque. The work is problems of foreign location are caused by dank air, Ca-
all the strangerfor its publication by Loudon in his Archi- tholicism, and a habitual use of bad art (6: 405). But Ruskin
tecturalMagazine in 1837 and 1838. Loudon had in 1833 thinks that neither povertynor cultural ignorance would
published his own Encyclopaediaof Cottage Architecture, have the same affects in Britain.The "absolutejoy in ugli-
which was firmly addressedas a remedy to the degraded ness"and "imbecile revelling in terror"of foreign peasantsis
misery of Britishcottagers.In describing Italian "cottages," "independentof mere povertyor indolence," as we see by
Ruskin describes aesthetic objects in wordsthat in England contrastwith "Irishrecklessnessand humour"and "the well-
would soon belong only to the discourse of the sanitary conducted English cottager"(6: 399, 396, 389). With an art-
commissioners:"the filthy habits of the Italian prevent him less shift in logic, it is only on the Continent that art must
from sufferingfrom the state to which he is reduced. The face the choice to disguise or to enjoy oppression.
shatteredroofs, the dark,confused, raggedwindows, the ob-
scure chambers, the tatteredand dirtydraperies,altogether
Picturesquenessand Sympathy
present a picture which, seen too near, is sometimes revolt-
ing to the eye, alwaysmelancholy to the mind" (1: 28). This Ruskin'sdiscussionof the picturesqueformspartof an argu-
nationalistic displacement of picturesque objectification is ment as to the superiorityof the workof J. M. W. Turnerover
not overcome in Ruskin'slater works." populartastefor picturesqueviews. In the chapter"Ofthe
TurnerianPicturesque,"Ruskinopposesthe "lowerpictur-
In "Of Mountain Gloom," in volume five of Modem Paint-
esque,"with which we have thus far dealt, with a Turnerian
ers, Ruskindiscusses the artisticappropriationof povertyun-
noble picturesque(6: 9-26). The differenceis authorialsym-
der sentiments of gloominess and horror.He is appalled that
pathy:Turner'ssympathywith his subjectsleads him to a
popularoperas nightly present impoverishedAlpine peas-
noble representationof them even when they are mean.
ants, without the audiences even connecting this literary
topos with an actual human situation. But this is a simple At stake here are severalaspects of the reiterationof the pic-
enough problem where artistictruth convergeswith moral turesque. Like Price, Ruskin uses examples of the high taste
truth, and Ruskincan simply damn together the lack of sym- for low objects as an entree to the question of nobility and
pathyand the foolishness of starvingpeasantscoopted as the truth in representation.The picturesque is alwaysa begin-
rosysubjects of the pastoral.At this same point in the de- ning and never an end. For each author, it is genre hierar-
scription, however, Ruskinopens a much more problematic chy that is importantand Reynolds who is both authority
set of issues that he cannot resolve:the question of the gro- and target.Price's claims for the superiorityof Rembrandt
tesque in art,the aesthetic of horror,and an art that has over van Ostade are exactly the same as Ruskin'sclaims for
much more to do with affect than with truth.We might Turner: both artistshave chosen to paint lower genres from
wonder how this differsfrom the picturesque in his condem- the height of their success with historypainting. For Price,
nation of it. Yet it is importantto Ruskinto make a distinc- this occurs in Rembrandt'sfreedom of technique and a cer-

assemblage 32

tain negligence with detail; for Ruskin, it is in Turner'spre- Ruskin implicitly accepts the categorical separationof the
cision and "sympathy."But in each case, masterycomprises picturesque and the beautiful and, what is more, defines
not only a relation to the subject but a command of the the picturesque in terms of the sublime. Eighteenth-cen-
genre system and freedom from determination. tury theoristswere unlikely to do so because the sublime is
a categoryof transcendence. But, for Ruskin,the distinction
Perhapsthe most remarkableaspect of Ruskin'sdiscussion
between the beautiful and the picturesque is that the pic-
of the picturesque is his acceptance of Price's claim that
turesque is a parasiticalform of sublimity (8: 221-47). The
picturesquenessis a separateaesthetic category.'2Price in-
example Ruskingives, in "The Lamp of Memory,"is of
sisted that picturesquenesswas categoricallydifferentfrom
cottages, the roofs of which in their decrepit and twisted
beauty, an empirical attributeof objects that could be rep-
shapes, might recall rangesof mountains. The equation
resented. Most commentatorsconsider this a less progres-
here seems to be a version of the opposition of nature to
sive view than that of RichardPayne Knight, who held that
artifice.Art is beautiful, nature sublime, and those human
beauty was an issue of the sensoryperception of light and its
worksthat are greatlyaged and changed in use or that are
variationsand thus not inherent in objects;picturesqueness
the result of habitual unconscious practice are half-natural.
being merely a descriptorof some of those objects judged to
Artifice in its unreflected picturesque state naturallyshows
be beautiful because of their perceptual relationswith a
the pathos of human workswhen put againstthe worksof
subject. In most twentieth-centuryaccounts of the pictur-
nature. The aesthete'sexperience of picturesquenessis,
esque, where it is seem as an origin for modern formalism,
then, a sort of sublimity where the subject exceeds the ob-
the more progressiveposition appearsto belong to Knight,
ject, ratherthan the other way around. We could conclude
who was in fact a more sophisticatedthinker and writer
from Ruskin'sexamples that the picturesque is the human;
than Price. Yet, if we put aside the historical success of
that is, the human seen as nature ratherthan as art.The
Knight'sargument, the position he argues - that beauty is
beautiful is what humans attemptto obtain in their artifacts;
one thing and picturesquenessmerely an attributeof it - is
it is, as it were, the human project. Seen as objects, how-
the more conservativeone, held also by his quite muddle-
ever, all human projects,architecturefor instance, are
headed contemporariessuch as Repton. Knight'sposition,
vanitas. They are metonymic, or parasitical,of death and
although philosophically engaging, could not have made as
the sublimity of time itself.
much sense at the time as Price's convoluted and some-
times illogical attemptsto put abstractand critical theories The lower picturesqueis also called the "surfacepictur-
of judgment into the existing cultural formationsbased on esque" (6: 16). This surface is that of the parasiticrelations
genre. Price had a neat way of demonstratingthat the aes- by which mean objects might produce visual stimuli like
thetic appropriationof the mean, common, and disgusting noble naturalobjects. Ruskinsupposesthat these visual
did not perverselyvalue these things, nor did aesthetic ap- stimuli are so inevitablyappealing and desirablethat those
propriationundo the double articulationby which objects without spiritualbreadthwill be seduced to look no further
possessed social and aesthetic value. This was possible so and will lack criteriafor distinguishingmountain from cot-
long as one said "picturesque"ratherthan "beautiful"about tage. On the other hand, the noble picturesque is a relation
the dung hills of everydaylife. in depth. Nobility does not require us to eschew the surface


relations,but ratherto put this fascination"in subordination the gauge of human life.14In a remarkablepassagein "The
to the inner characterof the object."Turner thus knows that Lamp of Memory,"Ruskin describes the horrorof imagin-
the cottage and mountain each rewardhis sensorium but ing an Alpine landscape without permanent habitations;its
knows, too, that they are not the same; that the cottage is sublime beauties would be uncanny were it an "aboriginal
pathetic. This is his "sympathy"and breadthof spirit. forest of the New Continent" (8: 223). A scene devoid of
human markswill necessarilybe terribleand sublime. Else-
We could put the relation of sympathyand parasiticsub-
where, he discusses the preference of a viewer to "choose
limity another way by looking at Ruskin'sdefinition of
for his subject the broken stones of a cottage ratherthan of
metaphoras "the pathetic fallacy"(5: 205-6). Ruskinsees
a roadsidebank"(6: 21). Roadsidebanks are another para-
metaphoras a kind of untruth not needed by great poets,
digmatic picturesque object in Uvedale Price and there is
who can speak of objects and scenes directly.The pathetic
no reason that such cuttings into the earth, with their intri-
fallacy of metaphoricallanguage is that, while it is a weak-
cate and varied forms of rock, earth, and roots, could not
ness, it truly expressesthe affect on the poet who is over-
also be parasiticalof the sublimity of mountains. Nonethe-
come by the thing described. Ruskindoes not say that the
less, we are supposed to understandthat the seeker afterpic-
cottage is a metaphorof the sublime mountain, yet it is clear
turesque qualities will preferthe ruined cottage "to give a
that the picturesquearousesthe feeling of pathos. We could
deeper tone to his pleasure."Ruskin'sonly remarkis to
understandthe lower picturesque in a kind of pair with the
warn that the pleasure he assumes to be sought will be ig-
pathetic fallacy.The lover of the lower picturesquesees
noble without an authentic sympathy.In this case, "sympa-
truly every detail of the shatteredroof, ivy-chokedchimney,
thy" is merely Ruskin'srepetition of the old axiom that
and damp walls of the cottage, but is lying nonetheless
there is as much joy in a life lead in cottages as in palaces.
through a failure to be affected by povertyand decay.
What the noble picturesque has sympathywith are sorrow
The critique of the picturesqueas parasiticalsublimitythat
and old age; that is, the explicitly human attributesof the
had been made earlierin "The Lamp of Memory"is clearly
scene that are possessed by nature only at the most general
derivedfrom questionsof the architecturalcharacterof cot-
level of the historyof our fall from the grace of creation.
tages that go back to "The Poetryof Architecture."'3
Nevertheless, Ruskin insiststhat sorrowand age would be
Ruskinreturnsto these thoughtsin the passageswe are dis-
sublime, except that in the picturesque they are "mingled
cussing in volume four of ModernPainters,he must extend
with such familiarand common charactersas prevent the
the scope of the analysisfrom architectureto paintingand
object from becoming perfectlypathetic in its sorrow,or
figurepainting;and he does so with the concept of sympathy.
perfectlyvenerable in its age" (6: 11). This is another symp-
The examples of human figures and landscapes and tom of the genre hierarchyimplicit in the picturesque, but
buildings with human figures that Ruskin gives in Modern it leads us on to furtherqualificationsof "sympathy."The
Painterstake him beyond the simple materialrelations of noble picturesque is the sympatheticobservationof
cottages to mountains. In any case, it is unclear whether the
suffering, of povertyor decay, nobly endured by unpretending
geological time of the decay and weathering of the moun- strength of heart. Nor only unpretending but unconscious. If
tain can be understoodwithout the cottage; that is, without there be visible pensiveness in the building, as in a ruined ab-

assemblage 32

2. William Hunt, The Blessing

class. "In a great many respects it is impossible that he

should be open except to men of his own kind.... By the
very acuteness of his sympathyhe knows how much he can
give to anybody . . . and would be glad to give more if he
could. [But] whateverhe said a vulgar man would misinter-
pret"(7: 347-48). The poor must thus be unawareof their
plight and the noble viewer must not speak with them.
Although sympathymight lead to charityat a later time,
within the space of the aesthetic appropriationit is a rela-
tively specialized concept of feeling, or lack of it, in art. It is
an attributeof the observernot a relation with the scene.

bey, it becomes,or claimsto becomebeautiful;but the pictur- Ruskin'sdemonstrationof the veracityof his definition of
esquenessis in the unconscioussuffering,- the lookthatan old the picturesque is a comparison of two prints of windmills
labourerhas, not knowingthatthereis anythingpatheticin his by Clarkson Stanfield and by Turner. Ruskin begins with
greyhair,andwitheredarms,and sunburntbreast.... [Between the rhetoricalclaim that we will find Stanfield'sprint the
the 'extremes'of the admittedpathosof the ruinedabbeyand
the sweptproprietiesand neatnessof modernEngland]. . . there more attractivebut that he can persuade us that Turner'sis
is the unconsciousconfessionof the factsof distressand decay, the better, not least because it refuses to be attractivefor us.
in by-words;the world'shardworkbeinggone throughall the Turner, it seems, has been limited in his attemptsto please
while, and no pityaskedfor,nor contemptfeared.(6: 14-15)
us by keeping his mill in a reasonablyserviceable condi-
At the most obvious level, human misery is being natural- tion, while Stanfield has sought out, and found with an evi-
ized here, and with this its causes in materialpovertythat dent delight, a mill packed with featuresof tone and line,
must have seemed a fact of life to Ruskin before he began and incidentally so decrepit that it would doubtless be the
to think on the systemic aspects of the maldistributionof ruin of any community who depended on it. But all this is
wealth. But Ruskin'sinsistence on the unconsciousness of mildly humorous, for Stanfield has changed a real poverty
sufferingis more or less explicitly political in the terms of into an imaginaryeye-pleasingone. The conceit deserves
his day. Clearly, what would not be allowed in the noble ridicule. Stanfield tries to please even if this requireshim to
picturesque is the knowledge of sufferingon the partof the exaggerate,while Turner refusespleasure for the statement
personsviewed, who might then call on the sympathyof the of general truths.There is also a question of salaryin all of
noble viewer in a less than abstractway. This is follows the this. Ruskinwrites for Turner and for us, not for Stanfield,
eighteenth-centurydistinction of a deservingpoor from the who has been invited into the argument only to be ex-
mendicant poor.l5In a later piece entitled "Of Vulgarity," cluded. Stanfield'sproblem is differentfrom that of the
Ruskin describes "sympathy"as an attributeof the well-bred liberal viewer; he has been paid to overcome his feelings
gentleman who is kind but reserved(7: 343-62). He argues at the sight of povertyand decay. Unlike Turner, who
against those who would misunderstandthis reserveas a struggleswith his genius, Stanfield has "pursuedhis career"
lack of sympathy.Ruskin thinks that reserveis not a failure as a masterof the lower picturesque, a choice that may have
to be generous with one's self but an acute realization of cost him dearlyin the hardening of his heart.


3. "The Picturesque of Windmills,"comparison of

paintings by ClarksonStanfield and J. M. W. Turner

Turner'ssympathyhas lead him to a depiction of a mill that is to know to be glad that he is not a manual laborerand to
"marksthis great fact of windmill nature"by a representa- have the good manners not to displayhis relief to those less
tion of its function: an accurate delineation of the partsand fortunate.
through the inclusion of an abandoned mill stone that al-
ludes to its internal mechanism. Ruskin writes as if Turner
has provided, ratherthan depicted, a serviceable mill; and Disgust
while this passage of thought might seem "sympathetic"to To take the analysisof the heartlessnessof the picturesque
users of mills, this is only the firststage to Ruskin'srather furtherwe need to returnfrom Ruskin'sovert discussion of
darkerand deeper account of Turner'ssympathy:"he feels "sympathy"to his rhetoric and the place of disgust within it.
something pensive about it. It is poor property.... Turning Another passagecondemning the picturesque that is often
around a couple of stones for the mere pulverisationof hu- quoted describes starvingScots crofters.In a spectacular
man food is not noble workfor the winds. So, also of all low word painting, Ruskin gives a page and a half of descriptive
human labour to which one sets human souls.... All men approbationof Highland scenery structuredonly by the
have felt it so this grinding at the mill, whether it be breeze rhythmic prose that representsthe passageof his eye across
or soul that is set to it" (6: 18-19). Turner'ssympathy,then, the imagined scene. The fluid eye hesitates momentarily in

assemblage 32

the middle of the passagewhen catching on the carcassof a buildings are the cottages of gloomy spinnersand dyers.
ewe, and this is carefullycalculated to cut the more deeply The faces of laborersand the green waterand soaking
when Ruskin finishes by focusing in on a small section of wrecksof boats match the reflexivesentences at the end of
the view, on a starvingman and boy: "the child's wasted the note.
shoulders, cutting his old tartanjacketthrough, so sharp
An old flamboyantGothicchurch,whoserichlytraceriedbut-
they are"(7: 268-69). The rhetoricalstructureof "Of tressesslopedinto the filthystream;- all exquisitelypictur-
Mountain Gloom" is similar. On a walk in the Alpine for- esqueand no less miserable.We delightin seeingthe figuresin
ests of Savoy, Ruskinhalts his torridprose descriptionof the thesepushingthem aboutthe bitsof blue water,in Prout'sdraw-
scenery when he arrivesat the mountain village, which is ings;but as I lookedto-dayat the unhealthyface and melancholy
mien of the man in the boatpushinghis loadof peatsalongthe
a "darkand plague-like stain in the midst of gentle land- ditch, ... I could not help feelinghow manysufferingpersons
scape" (6: 389). This turn in the rhetoricalstructureis mustpayformy picturesquesubjectand happywalk.(6: 20)
affective through an unexpected change in the statusof de-
scription. Ruskin induces in the readera state of airy, ocu- George Landow writesthat the inclusion of the note shows
lar, distanced observationbefore sharplyintrudingwith that Ruskin "could not help feeling."17RobertHewison
human reference and a moral argument.The passagesbe- thinks it a "documentarytouch" that supportsthe body text,
gin ekphrasis:in the verbal descriptionof a visual represen- as well the general theme of Ruskin distancing himself
tation, we hear the picture that Ruskin sees. But then at the from the picturesque as his social conscience is awakened.'8
sight of human miserywe are jolted, disgusted (at the ob- But the text is much more complex, paradoxical,and recur-
sive than that. This is more than one of Ruskin'sfamous in-
jects and then at ourselvesfor aestheticizing them), and we
realize that the description Ruskingives us is not mediated consistencies; it is a deliberate polyphony. The Ruskin of
visual experience, it is the position he argues against.The the body text accuses the Ruskin at Amiens of a monstrous
heartlessness.There is reason to think that on his happy
description-minus-argumentis the rhetoricalplace of the
picturesque-without-sympathy, and disgust is the moment walk at Amiens Ruskinlooks to take pleasure by finding
on which this shift in rhetoricturns.16 a scene to compare to a particulardrawingby Samuel
Prout.19His reflection on the cost of his experience is as for-
The passageon picturesque heartlessnessthat began this es- mulaic as a memento mori and does not answerthe scorn
say is consistent with these passagesin its rhetoricalpattern of the passagenor equate with the concept of sympathyout-
although it uses disgust and affecting description in a more lined earlier in the chapter. In fact, his reaction in the diary
complicated way. Although the passagequoted is all pejora- note is much closer to those lovers of the lower picturesque
tive, a long footnote gives a description of innocent visual described immediately after in the text as "innocent of evil
pleasuresfrom which disgust and sympathywill awaken us. but not broad in thought,"who might cultivate their taste
Ruskin introduces the note as an entry in his diaryabout a "not with any special view to artistic,but merely humane
"happywalk"along the Somme. The diaryentry makes education" (6: 21-22).
wonderfullyclear that the heartlessnesshe described is the
generalization of a particularexperience of his own. The In the structureof the chapter on the picturesque from
"feverishmisery of the lower quarterof the town"described ModernPainters,the concept of sympathyprecedes the
in the body of the text is, in fact, Amiens. The decrepit comparison of the mills and Stanfield'sexemplification of


in the picturesque itself. On one count, this is because it

follows the trackof seeing artisticmerit in the interpolation
of genre that I have been emphasizing throughout;on an-
other, because the argument is supposed to be self-evident
in our disgust at bad art;and lastly, because our disgust at
bad art is put in relation to questions of the meaning of
disgust within the representedscene.

Price, like Edmund Burke, posits disgust as having three

levels of action in the realm of taste.2'At the first,disgust
shows the power of art, in that dung hills and back kitchens
can be objects of artisticrepresentation,when we would not
enjoy the sight of them in real life.22At the second, there is
4. Samuel Prout, Amiens a limit to this aspect of art;some things disgust even in rep-
resentation:we can imagine variousugly and distortedhu-
man faces as studies in character,but a man with a face like
the lower picturesque. The heartlessnesspassagethen
an oystercovered in wens and excrescences is too much.23
builds our outrage at picturesque practice before the re-
At the third, the taste of the poor disgustsus because the
mainder of the chapter piles qualification on qualification
poor preferrepresentationsof food, jolly times, and fine
until the lower picturesque appearsas the inevitable start-
weather. Their fault is to desire sensual pleasures so much
ing point to a love of art, and marksthe distinction of those
that they misunderstandthe contract of mimesis; wanting to
capable of such growthfrom both the sanitarycommission-
have in representationthings longed-forbut unobtainable
ers and the person who "would thrustall povertyand misery
in life. My point has been to show that Ruskin'scondemna-
out of his way"(6: 22). The note on Amiens thus lies at the
tion of the lower picturesque has as much to do with this
pivot of the chapter'sstructure,at the height of Ruskin'sdis-
disgust at the low taste of the English middle class as it has
gust before he forgivesthe picturesque. Prout is a symptom
to do with the povertyrepresented.Ruskin deploys a three-
of Ruskin'sequivocation, an exception in that he is, by vir-
tiered structureassuming:one, a real phenomenal affection
tue of the genre of his work, a masterof the lower pictur-
of disgust, fear, and sorrowthat he and the readermight
esque; not a historypainter like Turner, but nonetheless
have at real scenes of human depravityand degradation;
sympatheticand exempt from denigration (6: 22-23).
two, a right approachby noble artiststo such scenes
It is well established that Ruskin'scritique of the pictur- wherein they know what can and cannot be bracketedsuffi-
esque revealshis debts to it as much as anything else.20 ciently in representation;and three, a slavish compulsion to
It might have been the case that Ruskin had difficulty in imitation that disguststhose of good taste. This last is fool-
thinking beyond his formativemilieu and was, at the time ish and dismissible, but when we think on it, such abuse of
he wrote volume four of Modem Painters,developing the art comes to truly disgust. Ruskin'sand the reader'staste is
interestsand beliefs that would guide his later career as a affrontedby the Stanfield print in a strangekind of circuit
social reformer.But the form of his equivocation is implicit with our phobic horrorof the poor. Stanfield'sapproachto

assemblage 32

art is merely unreasonable,but the knowledge of this leads us - a ball strewedbrightwith human ashes, glaring in its
to feel sick and angry. poised swayto and fro beneath the sun that warmsit, all
blinding white with death from pole to pole" (4: 376).
There are differences, of course, between Ruskinand the
eighteenth-centurytheorists.Price was a lover of Dutch land- Ruskin'stopic is the horrorand fear of the terriblesublime,
scapes and of genre painterssuch as Philips Wouvermanns but he had alreadydefined the picturesque as a parasitical
and David Teniers. Ruskin includes a chapter on these artists sublimity and his views on disgustare consistent. "Disgust,
in volume five of ModernPainters,the introductionto which properlyso called, is a minor degree of horrorfelt respecting
includes the memorable quip that "all their life and work is things ignoblypainful or offensive"(4: 372).26Ruskinthinks
the same sort of mysteryto me as the mind of my dog when that horroris evoked by artistsimagining a "bodymore or
he rolls on carrion"(7: 363). Ruskin'staste thus differsfrom less subjected to visible decay: as in the skeleton dances of
that of Price, but their mechanism for confrontingthe low in Retsch. A 'horrible'death is one in which the laws of life are
art is the same. Servile art is not simply an unreasonableuse violently and unnaturallyinterruptedwith such infliction of
of art, but an affrontto reason that leads to it own affects;that pain as nature usually forbids:as in the body'sbeing torn or
is, to disgust. dashed to pieces - or burnt"(4: 371). It is worth remem-
bering at this point the skeletal figures of the Highland
It is unclear whether Ruskinhad read Price with attention to
shepherds.27The horrorthat Ruskin uses to tell the
the details of his theory of disgust.24In any case, he would
unrepresentablefacts of the Highland clearances is the boy's
have little use for it. Because he thinks the beauty and nobil-
visible skeleton, his walking death. For the viewer of the
ity of art lie in its relationswith the world, he cannot believe
lower picturesque, whom Ruskin reproacheshere, such a
(as does Price) that partsof the world are beneath representa-
scene in life would presumablydisgust (it being a minor and
tion yet capable of ennoblement by the choice of the artistto
ignoble horrorto starveto death), but still remain something
objectify them. He neverthelesshas a theory of disgust.The amenable to being depicted as "character"in painting.
manuscriptRuskinaniapublished in the LibraryEdition with
volume two of ModernPaintersincludes largelycomplete Ruskintitles one fragmentof the notes "Supplementary
notes for a chapter on awe and horror(4: 371-81). The edi- Notes on TerrorArisingfrom Weakness of Health." He refers
tors do not know whether it was intended for inclusion in to the charactersand worksof Keatsand Coleridge, but the
volume two or for a revision.They point out that some of the passagecould also be thought of as foreknowledgeof his later
wordsand phrases,including "Of Mountain Gloom," are madness and hyperaesthesia.Ruskindescribes the reactions
used in later volumes. The point of these notes seems to be of a farmerand a poet when coming acrossa snake. The
to distinguish the experience of the sublime from a love of farmerkills it and "proceedsin his walk - whistling. A sick
horror.25Justas he does later with the picturesque, Ruskin and sorrowfulpoet, meeting the same creature,pauses -
drawsa line between right and wrong uses of horror.There watches, follows and irritatesit - takes strangepleasure in
is a shallow enjoyment of the affect of being frightened and a looking into its eyes, and hearing it hiss" (4: 380). This is a
true horrorat the evil of the world wherein "thereought course of action that Ruskin does not recommend and that
surely be times when we feel its bitterness,and perceive this can be forgiven only if it resultsin "Lamia"or "Christabel"
awful globe of ours as it is indeed, one pallid charnel house, (or, perhaps,the worksof John Ruskin). What is it to say that


disgust is an ignoble form of this encounter with inhuman Since Ruskin,it is commonplaceto explainthe judgmentof
evil? We could conclude our tour of the Ruskinianpictur- tastein its differencenot only from interestedjudgment,from
esque by defining the picturesque as an ignoble parasiticfas- conceptualperfectionand the restof the Kantianapparatus,
cination with human degradation,which can be forgiven if it but also from a naive aestheticism,frompositionsthat Ruskin
is the startof something better. would have said lackedsympathyand that are these dayscalled

Ruskinand the Picturesque Sontag,RobertSmithson,and Yve-AlainBois have all played

on the idea of the picturesqueas a kind of transhistorical
Despite Ruskin'svehement condemnation of it in some precursor.28 The picturesquethat Ruskinreceivedwas a theory
places, his work is indebted to earlier writerson the pictur- of how tastecould be normalizedwithin an elite and in relation
esque; and in general terms, his work can be understood to to objectsappropriatedby that elite. AfterRuskin,and since
be a development of picturesque sensibility. But it is also the the generalagreementon the impossibilityof an objective
case that our image of the picturesque is, to a large degree, aesthetics,the picturesquehas become availableas the example
one received through Ruskin. To the extent that we think of of a nafveaestheticof the observingsubject.The picturesque
the picturesque as a general aesthetic concept, ratherthan is usuallyevokedin the presenttense as a pejorative,but then
one particularto its eighteenth-century inventors, it is in restoredto privilegeby being given as the origin of modern
Ruskin'scondemnation of the picturesque that the concept perceptualistculture.Justas the eighteenth-centurypicturesque
is completed. Ruskin tells us that the picturesque is a kind was fixatedon genre transcoding(on the mechanismsby which
facile preoccupation with visual qualities that blind the weak a high tastefor low objectscould be normalizedand displayed
minded to human suffering.The picturesque leads to un- as virtu),so the picturesquesince Ruskinhas been a site of
seemly interestsand Ruskin'sdisgust at picturesqueness is an historicaltranscoding,keeping open the place of "taste"in
exact parallel to the picturesque viewer's having forgotten to modernaesthetictheory.The picturesquestandsfor a historical
be disgusted. There are two interesting aspects to this para- origin or a presentlack:it is at once the originof modernist,
doxical denunciation. First, Ruskin'sdenunciation takes the politicallynuanced formalismand what distinguishespopular
form of an unacknowledged reiterationof the problem of fromprogressivetaste.This confusion is not some fault in the
conceptualizing disgust that is fundamental to eighteenth- commentaryon the picturesque(whetherin Ruskinor later).
century picturesque theory. Second, for Ruskin to repeat the The historicalsuccess of the picturesquehas been in its giving
problematic of disgust as if it were an aspect of his historical us an original,Arcadianscene of a formalismunwittinglysubju-
distance from the picturesque (ratherthan an integral part of gated to content. This ever-presentinnocence can be evokedat
the picturesque thematic) is, in a strangeway, a any point and overcomeagain and again by the discoveryof
development of the eighteenth-century picturesque. Ruskin's either the arbitrariness of the content of culturalpracticesor
use of the picturesque as a kind of hors d'oeuvre to his own their politicaldeterminations.These nuances are a modern
project completes the picturesque, gives it the temporal developmentthat can be distinguishedfrom the eighteenth-
mechanism by which this theory of ruralgenre painting and centuryinventionof the picturesqueat the point where Ruskin
propertyimprovement could become a general aesthetic completes the picturesquein his condemnationof its
principle. heartlessness.

assemblage 32

Notes moments of concern that the Painting fromReynoldsto Hazlit: 10. The English cottage epitomized
Thanks to RosemaryHawkerand exercise of picturesque taste is The Body of the Public (New Haven: the picturesquefrom its beginnings.
Charles Rice. materiallyto the disadvantageof Yale UniversityPress, 1986). Barrell The cottage is something that we
1. This and all references to agriculturalworkers;for instance, in has drawnattention to this idea be- now think of almost entirelyin aes-
Ruskin'sworkshereafterare to the Fragment 32 where Repton reports fore in English Literaturein History thetic terms,but around 1800 it was
his meeting with a laborerforced to 1730-1780: An Equal, Wide Survey a crucial object in a nationalpolitical
LibraryEdition of The Worksof
a mile furtherbecause he is forbid- (London: Hutchinson, 1983), where crisisover ruralpovertyand rebel-
John Ruskin, ed. E. T. Cook and
den to cross a park(The Landscape the play on interestand disinterest lion. We could argue that the prime
AlexanderWedderburn, 39 vols.
(London: George Allen, 1903-12). Gardening, 535). Both Loudon, in in governmentand taste is taken function of the picturesquehistori-
his firstbook, and Marshallare from the poet JamesThomson. cally was to separatescenic landscape
My citations follow the convention
of volume and page numbers. antipicturesqueand deny the sepa- Barrellrelies to some extent on J. G. improvementsfrom concurrentagri-
ration of agriculturaland scenic im- A. Pocock'svariousanalysesof the culturalimprovementsat a concep-
2. Uvedale Price, Essays on the Pic-
provement. See J. C. Loudon, A traditionof civic humanism. Of par- tual level. Nowhere is this binary
turesque(London, 1810). Price's Treatiseon Forming,Improvingand ticular relevance is Pocock's essay, structuremore clearlymarkedthan
three-volume treatise proposes to in the patternbooksfor picturesque
Managing CountryResidences(Lon- "Authorityand Property:The Ques-
teach landscape improvement from don, 1806), and William Marshall, tion of LiberalOrigins,"in Virtue, cottage design. As a genre these veer
the principles of painting. This aim On the Landed Propertyof England, Commerceand History(Cambridge: between picturesqueaesthetic dis-
has lead many commentators to see An Elementaryand PracticalTrea- course and Bentamitesocial manage-
CambridgeUniversityPress, 1985),
it as a precocious compositional for- tise; Containing the Purchase,the 51-78, which deals with the author- ment of agriculturalworkforces,and
malism. In fact, there are remark-
Improvementand the Management ity-conferringstatusof land and the severalbooksattemptto have it both
ably few statements on composition of LandedEstates (London, 1804). political alignments around the ways.In any case, by 1837-38 when
as, for Price, the principles of paint- propositionthat "land,or real prop- "The Poetryof Architecture"was
4. Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourses
ing are largely those of its genre sys- erty,tended to make men indepen- published, architecturalpattern
tem and the objects and ornaments on Art, ed. Robert R. Wark (New
dent citizens, who articulatedtheir bookson cottageswere a highly de-
of these genres. A crucial passage is Haven: Yale UniversityPress,
naturalpolitical capacity,whereas fined genre with a markedlynational-
in the "Essayon Picturesque Archi- 1975), Discourse 13, 233.
mobile propertytended to make istic sentiment and Ruskin'sassertion
tecture," 2: 329, where Price is 5. Reynolds explains this point in them artificialbeings, whose appe- that they were not picturesquemust
sometimes thought to say that, if Discourse 13 and gives it as the tites and powerscould and must be have had a curious reception. For a
examined as compositions, there is mechanism of comparison and rela- governed by a sovereign"(68). What descriptionof the patternbooks, see
no difference between the work of tive hierarchybetween painting and land defended was not the hege- Michael McMordie,"Picturesque
Claude and of Ostade. See, for the other arts including architec- mony of one class over another, but PatternBooksand Pre-VictorianDe-
instance, Martin Price, "The ture and gardening. Reynolds's the freedom of members of the pol- signers,"ArchitecturalHistory18
Picturesque Moment," in From strong argument that all painters ity and the legislaturefrom being (1975): 42-59, and my "The Pictur-
Sensibility to Romanticism,ed. should strivefor the grand manner, drawninto a relationshipof pa- esque Cottage:Genre and Tech-
FrederickW. Hilles and Harold while he himself preferredand tronageby executive government. nique,"SouthernReview22, no. 3
Bloom (New York:Oxford Univer- practiced a kind of elegant rusticity, Pocock points out the lexical equiva- (1989): 301-14.
sity Press, 1965). In fact, what he was remarkedas inconsistent at the lence of "property"and "propriety"
says is that the correspondences of time, see especially William Blake's in the seventeenth centurythat George Landowin The Aestheticand
their palaces and cottages are pleas- marginalia, in ibid., Appendix 1. bearson eighteenth-centuryfearsof CriticalTheoriesof JohnRuskin
ing because they offer the viewer 6. See E. P. Thompson, The Mak- corruption,but also, no doubt, on (Princeton:PrincetonUniversity
the possibility of transcoding the the "propercharacter"in landscape Press, 1971), 223n, points out that
ing of the English WorkingClass
genre hierarchy. gardeningand architecture. Ruskinmay well have seen G. L.
(Hammondsworth:Penguin, 1963).
3. See Humphry Repton, "ALetter Meason'sOn the LandscapeArchitec-
7. Jerome Stolnitz, "On the Origins 9. The position of the bourgeois tureof the GreatPaintersof Italy
to Uvedale Price,"published in
of 'Aesthetic Disinterestedness,"' critic is made wonderfullyclear in (London, 1828). The firstpattern
Price, Essays on the Picturesque,3:
3-21. See also Repton'sdescription Journalof Aestheticsand Art Criti- Ruskin'sbittercaricatureof himself book to deal with "Italiancottages"is
cism 20 (1961): 131-43. as "an architecturalman-milliner" Thomas FredrickHunt'sArchitettura
of the generic height of garden and
landscape in J. C. Loudon, ed., The 8. This idea of a republic of taste in the essay"Traffic"from The Campestre(London, 1827) and the
LandscapeGardeningof the Late mirroringthe political republic is Crownof Wild Olive, which is as most assuredis Charles Parker'sVilla
HumphryRepton Esq. (London, the key to John Barrell'sreading of much a critique of the possibilities Rustica(London, 1832). All these are
1840), 365. There are, in Repton, Reynolds in The Political Theoryof of criticism as it is of bourgeoistaste. intended for English clients and do


not oppose English to Continental the problem with the architectural urban scenes. Ruskin writes of a central aesthetic category in vol-
taste on the partof the cottagersor picturesque is compared with the Prout in the note and might have umes one and five of Modem Paint-
on the partof the aesthetesbuilding problem of those sculptorswho too been looking for this view. ers. See Helsinger, Ruskinand the
them. It is my view that Parker,like accuratelydepict hair. Price makes Art of the Beholder, 129.
20. See John Dixon Hunt, "Ruskin
Charles Barryabout the same time, the same complaint of Denner, a
and the Picturesque,"in Gardens 26. My italics. Also "the person
is using foreign stylisticsourcesbe- painter who he says errsby too accu- and the Picturesque:Studies in the originally capable of delight in ter-
cause he wished to use irregular rate an attempt at detail. See Price,
Historyof LandscapeArchitecture ror remains for ever distinct from
planning geometries.Irregular Essayson the Picturesque,3: 317.
(Cambridge, Mass.:The MIT Press, the commonplace person originally
buildings in English vernacularare
14. Again, this is a fundamental pic- 1992), and idem, The WiderSea: A incapable of it."
strangelycontroversialamong the
turesque theme recalling Repton's Life of John Ruskin (London: J. M.
patternbook architects,because they 27. It is possible that this passage
insistence on the necessity of orna- Dent, 1982).
were held by some to mix the binary borrowsits motif from Thomas
mental dwellings to anchor the look
oppositionbetween the political and 21. I have argued elsewhere that Carlyle'sPast and Present(London:
in the scenic view. See, for instance,
aesthetic objects that the cottage was. aesthetical disgust is a concept in J. M. Dent, 1960) where, in the in-
his discussion of the role of a deco-
These mattersare discussedin my picturesque discourse that is crucial troduction, Carlyle looks into a pic-
rativewoodsman'scottage in his de-
Ph.D. thesis The OrnamentalCot- to its political interpolation. See turesque view of a workhouseand
sign for Blaise Castle Estate in The
tage, Landscapeand Disgust, Univer- "The Butcher's Shop: Disgust in indigent men to see them revealed
sity of Cambridge, 1989, and a book Picturesque Aesthetics and Archi- to him as skeletons. This is noted by
of the same title in preparation. 15. On this distinction, see John tecture,"Assemblage30 (April Helsinger, Ruskinand the Artof the
11. The status of Scotland is inter- Barrell,The Dark Side of the Land- 1996): 32-43. Beholder, 154. Thanks KarenBurns.
esting here, and I am unsure what scape: The Rural Poor in English 28. See Heinrich Wolfflin, Prin-
22. "So it is with most of the pieces
to make of Ruskin'sdescription of Painting, 1730-1840 (Cambridge:
which the painterscall still-life:in ciples of Art History:The Problemof
the impoverishment of the High- Cambridge University Press, 1980). the Developmentof Style in Later
these a cottage,a dung hill, the
landers mentioned later in this text. 16. W. J. T. Mitchell describes "the meanestand most ordinaryutensils of Art (New York:Dover, 1950),
It could be that this is special plead- still moment of ekphrastichope," in the kitchen, are capableof giving us Nikolaus Pevsner, Studies in Art,
ing on Ruskin'spart - he is pre- which the sequential and referential pleasure"(EdmundBurke,A Philo- Architectureand Design (London:
pared to let some admission of structureof language is forgotten in sophicalEnquiryinto the Originof Thames and Hudson, 1968), Susan
faults with Britain past his national- the will to representation.This is Our Ideasof the Sublimeand Beauti- Sontag, On Photography(New
ism on the issues touching his an- succeeded, he says, by "ekphrastic ful, pt. 1, sec. 16; as quoted in Price, York:Delta, 1973), Robert
cestral home. Or, on the contrary, fear,"the uncanny sense of the Essayson the Picturesque,3: 324). Smithson, The Writingsof Robert
it could be that he wrote so com- difference of the visual and verbal Smithson, ed. Nancy Holt (New
pletely as an Englishman as to think 23. This is my gloss of a discussion
collapsing. See "Ekphrasisand the York:New YorkUniversityPress,
of Scotland as a foreign place. of picturesque physiognomy in
Other,"chap. 5 of W. J. T. Mitchell, 1979), and Yve-AlainBois, "A
PictureTheory(Chicago: Chicago Price, Essays on the Picturesque,1:
12. Elizabeth Helsinger, Ruskin Picturesque Stroll around Clara-
and the Art of the Beholder (Cam- UniversityPress, 1994). Clara," in October:The First De-
bridge, Mass.: HarvardUniversity 24. It seems likely that Ruskin had cade (Cambridge, Mass.:The MIT
17. Landow, The Aestheticand
Press, 1982), argues that Ruskin read Price given his upbringing in Press, 1987), 342-72.
Critical Theories,232.
begins with beauty (and truth) as the picturesque and the fame of
the only aesthetic categoryand has 18. Robert Hewison, John Ruskin: Price's text. George Landow points
picturesqueness and the sublime The Argumentof the Eye (London: out that there is evidence that he Figure Credits
merely as issues of points of view. Thames and Hudson, 1976), 49. at least intended to do so. In the 1-4. The Worksof John Ruskin,
She thinks that he then changes 19. The scene Ruskin describes is manuscript notes, Ruskin lists Price ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander
his mind and comes to admit the under "Worksto be seen" (8: 235). Wedderburn, 39 vols. (London:
very like the print by Samuel Prout
sublime as a separatecategory See Landow, The Aesthetic and George Allen, 1903-12).
published in "Notes on Prout and
through the work on the "noble Critical Theories,221-22.
Hunt" (14: facing 392) and repro-
picturesque"and the grotesque. duced here. Ruskin'sfamily had 25. Although the notes are certainly
13. In the "Lampof Memory,"the collected Prout'swork and Ruskin equivocal. Elizabeth Helsinger
discussion of the lower picturesque had followed it from childhood, be- thinks that they are Ruskin'sat-
attention to detail is very close to lieving Prout'simportance lay in his tempt to write on horroras part of
those of Price and Reynolds, in that bringing picturesque principles to his reintroduction of the sublime as