Skip to main content

On John Ruskin's first meeting with J.M.W. Turner

There wasn't room to put this in the actual 500th blog post without making it extremely long, so in honour of the occasion, here is a quotation from John Ruskin, the nineteenth century English writer from whom I took the title of this blog. It recounts a day from Ruskin's youth when Ruskin and his father were walking on the grounds of a country estate, and came upon the painter Turner, who had been fishing in a nearby lake:


"When we returned, and while waiting for the boat, Turner became quite chatty, rigging me a little ship, cut out of a chip, sticking masts into it, and making her sails from a leaf or two torn from a small sketch-book, in which I recollect seeing a memorandum in colour that he had made of the sky and sunset. The ship was hardly ready for sea before the man and boat came lumbering up to the bank, and Turner was busy directing and helping him to recover the line, and, if possible, the fish. This, however, escaped in the confusion. 

J.M.W. Turner, 'The Lake, Petworth: Sunset, a Stag Drinking' (1829)
"When the line was got in, my father gave the man a couple of shillings for bringing the boat; while Turner, remarking that it was no use fishing any more after the water had been so much disturbed, reeled up his other lines, and, slipping a finger through the pike's gills, walked off with us toward Petworth House. Walking behind, admiring the great fish, I noticed as Turner carried it how the tail dragged on the grass, while his own coat-tails were but little further from the ground ; also that a roll of sketches, which I picked up, fell from a pocket in one of these coat-tails, and Turner, after letting my father have a peep at them, tied the bundle up tightly with a bit of the sacred line."--John Ruskin, Praeterita & Dilecta.


 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Popular posts from this blog

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…