à bout de souffle
   
Page Thirty
     
The Very Last Gasp. Not.
try page thirty-five for what is definitely the last gasp
   
Suffocation here under mountains of drivel



   

Birds of a Feather
Walpole, Horace; Ruskin, John; and The Oxford History of English Art
and many others, all still poisoning the minds of posterity

The van de Velde family left Greenwich in about 1689, when William III kicked them out. Monamy was then eight years old. He did well for his age. Monamy's friends and family, especially his enterprising Uncle Andrew, who acted in loco parentis during Peter's youth, were all delighted by William's arrival. Isaac Sailmaker jumped for joy, and his painting career really accelerated. Like Vertue said, he saw off the mighty van de Veldes.

If Monamy's style was formed entirely on that of the van de Veldes, why do these paintings, above and left, seem to be influenced by Ludolf Backhuysen ? Can't understand it.

Judgements of the calibre of Ruskin's eye-stretching and paralysing inanity, quoted above and below, have made anyone genuinely familiar with seventeenth and eighteenth century marine painting, British as well as Dutch, distinctly unhappy. Backhuysen, van de Velde and the several other Dutch and French landscape painters mauled by Ruskin have mostly survived his ignorant, malignant and libellous attacks, but such is his residual following among the precious that British marine painting has had a hard time recovering.

"Savage Ruskin sticks his tusk in", wrote Shirley Brooks, in 1856. Surely not necessary to explain that this Shirley was male? Editor of Punch, when Punch had clout.

In 1824, Lord Liverpool, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in a letter to John Wilson Croker, had delivered a not dissimilar punch to Ruskin's forerunner, thus "I believe Horace Walpole to have been as bad a man as ever lived; I cannot call him a violent party man, he had not virtue enough ......" Croker, Secretary to the Admiralty, replied "..... there never lived a more calumnious writer", and added he had felt it necessary, in The Quarterly Review, April 1822, "to sift his truth from his malevolence", so that Walpole might not "poison the minds of posterity".


Also: The Courtauld Institute,
NMM, V&A, Tate, Yale, MMA,and many others

"This ship must be taken, she appears above our match, but Englishmen are not to mind that." Captain Gardiner's last words, before his ship, the Monmouth, 64 guns, engaged the Foudroyant, 84 guns, 1758.


Dulwich picture 113: target of Ruskin's genially stunning analysis, setting van de Velde to rights
.
Scroll down his chastisement, above, to see what he says "Vandevelde ought to have done".

Wonderful perception displayed by Ruskin, and so eloquent, if also muddled, obscure and misleading. What a pity that Michael Robinson decided this painting was NOT by van de Velde. The Dulwich Gallery currently announces, on its website, October 2013: "A Calm. According to Robinson, a studio or eighteenth-century copy of a picture by Van de Velde of unknown whereabouts." This is a curious note, since in Volume I of Robinson's epic Paintings of the Willem van de Veldes, 1990, pp 355-357, he discusses five versions of this composition, and records the historic whereabouts of all of them. It is evident, from what Robinson says, that this painting was very badly scrubbed, before 1835. Perhaps Robinson was influenced in his verdict on this picture by what Ruskin had to say, since he quotes him in full.

In 1933 R.H.Wilenski published John Ruskin: An Introduction, with the following explanatory preface:


   

I couldn't have put it better myself, Wilenski. You nailed it. Reading more than a few pages of John Ruskin is a worrying experience. Disturbing. While it is well recognized that Ruskin was certifiably mad by the end of his life, there has been debate about whether he was fully compos mentis at any time. Tim Hilton had this to say, May 9, 2000:

"I do like Ruskin when he's clearly leaving the rails of mental normality. I think that Ruskin's madness is actually rather a wonderful madness. . . . The books that are most crazy are really worrying and disappointing. . . . But the writing that he did when he was approaching the brink is wonderful beyond compare."

In John Ruskin: The Early Years, 1985, Hilton noted, page 102: "Ruskin was to make an unusual and rather sinister claim about Turner's health in these years. He felt that the painter had then been not merely in physical decline but suffered from 'mental disease', whose onset he could date: '..... fatal change ..... towards the close of 1845'." This feeling may have been mutual.

J.M.W.Turner, 1775-1851, had little time for Ruskin, in spite of the enthusiasm of the "Graduate of Oxford" for Turner's art. A quick glance through Turner and the Masters, 2009, a Tate Gallery exhibition catalogue, makes it quite clear that Turner can't have paid the slightest attention to anything that Ruskin had to say in Modern Painters. Hilton, page 69, points out that in 1842, at the culmination of his undergraduate studies, Ruskin took a peculiar, virtually unique, degree: "an honorary double fourth". Turner, when on his deathbed, sent Ruskin a conciliatory note, but otherwise seems to have had very few dealings with him. In fact, he seems totally to have ignored him. It is faintly comic to note, after Ruskin's ludicrous rubbishing of the paintings of Claude and van de Velde, that Turner appears deliberately to have set out, perhaps competitively, but also arguably in a complementary as well complimentary vein, to create pendants to both Claude and van de Velde, as well as Ruysdael, and Salvator Rosa. In his long introductory essay, prefacing The Harbours of England, 1856, Ruskin remarks, in an aggrieved tone, that "Turner ... deemed it necessary ...that he should paint pictures in the style of van de Velde". He adds that after Turner died, he discovered "among the contents of his neglected portfolios" that "several drawers were entirely filled with ... memoranda of shipping". Among these memoranda, take my word for it, were many samples of the work of Peter Monamy. The simple truth is that Turner's art derived completely naturally, and directly, from the long and distinguished tradition of indigenous marine painting.


Meanwhile, their minds poisoned by the calamitous calumnies of Horace Walpole, and brainwashed by the self-delusional ramblings of Ruskin, the ninnies of the Courtauld have religiously continued to promote their agenda of the negligible worth of marine painting, especially if British. Ruskin's confusion is hardly anywhere more grossly in evidence than in The Harbours of England: see here for a few quotes. In fact, the entire essay is wildly unbalanced.

"There are some curious men who form an idea of a master, by the sight of three or four of his pictures."
Roger de Piles, 1635 - 1709
     

     

"Do you think that, year after year, you will be able to stand to see one mediocrity after another promoted over you, and still not become embittered and dejected?"
Of course, the answer is always: "Naturally, I live only for my calling." Max Weber.

Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.
Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.
Academic politics is much more vicious than real politics. We think it’s because the stakes are so small.
In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue—that is why academic politics are so bitter.
The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.
Competition in academia is so vicious because the stakes are so small.
Wilson observed often that the intensity of academic squabbles he witnessed while president of Princeton University was a function of the “triviality” of the issues being considered.


quite definitely monamy's last gasp
quite a different page
last page

not to be continued: after 30 pages if the hot air runs out.

go to page 31 therefore

Croyez ceux qui cherchent la vérité, doutez de ceux qui la trouvent; doutez de tout, mais ne doutez pas de vous-même. André Gide

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© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2013, 2015
all rights reserved


Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit
lasciate ogni speranza
     

     
Much of Ruskin's vitriolic commentary on Dutch marine painting seems to be based on his sight of this canvas in the Greenwich Gallery. It is probably Dutch, but may only be a copy of a painting by van de Velde.
OK; I'll concede that Ruskin had something of a point, however. But Mrs Browning didn't buy into him wholesale. Wise of her.