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On my 200th blog post

It seems appropriate, in the 200th post for this blog named after the autobiography (loosely called) of John Ruskin, to start referring to the great man and his works more often. I’ll begin by quoting the subtitle of ‘Praeterita’:  Outlines of scenes and thoughts, perhaps worthy of memory in my past life.

Ruskin describes his first memory of being introduced to the art of painting as follows. When he was three and a half years old, his parents took him to have his portrait painted by the celebrated portraitist James Northcote, about which Ruskin writes:

“I think it should be related also that having, as aforesaid, been steadily whipped If I was troublesome, my formed habit of serenity was greatly pleasing to the old painter; for I sat contentedly motionless, counting the holes in his carpet, or watching him squeeze his paints out of its bladders, -- a beautiful operation, indeed, to my thinking; -- but I do not remember taking any interest in Mr. Northcote’s application of the pigments to the canvas; my ideas of delightful art, in that respect, involving indispensably the possession of a large pot, filled with paint of the brightest green, and of a brush which would come out of it soppy. But my quietude was so pleasing to the old man that he begged my father and mother to let me sit to him for the face of a child which he was painting in a classical subject; where I was accordingly represented as reclining on a leopard skin, and having a thorn taken out of my foot by a wild man of the woods.”

Here is the 1822 portrait of John Ruskin by James Northcote:


P.S. The artist Fuseli, on seeing Northcote’s painting “Angel opposing Balaam”, said to him: “Northcote, you are an angel at an ass, but an ass at an angel.”

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