RUSKIN, JOHN (1819-1900, art critic, author, poet, artist and social reformer)
'...my descriptions are not meant to touch the mind - as poetical descriptions should, by suggestive power - but to be enumerations of painters material - not to tell you what you may found a picture on for yourself - but to tell you all that does exist in a picture already founded...Turners great fate, as distinguished from other painters - is his sense of beauty - and his brilliant & exhaustless imagination ...in the whole course of the present volume...there is no question whatever raised...of where - how - or when - certain facts are to be represented. No questions of taste - selection - simplicity - of any one point of art is even raised. I merely investigate nature as far as I can - in all points; I show what she is...much of the apparent force of its condemnation of the old masters will vanish...if Turner once felt himself appreciated - and his strokes were watched by the eyes of the nation - his works would be far greater even than they are now. Public opinion has not been wrong about the old masters - They were the best painters of their day - They have certain great qualities both technical, & of the heart - which will & must preserve their works - But a greater has arisen - it is not in the nature of things he should be acknowledged at once - but it is in every ones power to advance the time of acknowledgement.'
This important statement by Ruskin was not published in E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, The Library Edition of The Works of John Ruskin, 39 volumes, 1903-1912, and it has not been found elsewhere. The sense and the way in which the last line is crammed into the space at the bottom of the second page suggest that the passage in the letter on Modern Painters was confined to this surviving sheet of paper.
Published anonymously, when Ruskin was only 24 years of age, as by 'A Graduate of Oxford', the first volume of Modern Painters was 'a landmark in art criticism and one of the great literary achievements of the Victorian age. It has had considerable influence on successive generations of artists and critics, and played a decisive role in establishing Turner's reputation as one of England's finest painters' (David Barrie, Modern Painters by John Ruskin, 1987).