Modern Painters

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Modern Painters (1843–1860) is a five-volume work by the Victorian art critic, John Ruskin, begun when he was 24 years old based on material collected in Switzerland in 1842.[1] Ruskin argues that recent painters emerging from the tradition of the picturesque are superior in the art of landscape to the old masters. The book was primarily written as a defense of the later work of J. M. W. Turner. Ruskin used the book to argue that art should devote itself to the accurate documentation of nature. In Ruskin's view, Turner had developed from early detailed documentation of nature to a later more profound insight into natural forces and atmospheric effects. In this way, Modern Painters reflects "Landscape and Portrait-Painting" (1829) in The Yankee by American art critic John Neal by distinguishing between "things seen by the artist" and "things as they are".[2]

Ruskin added later volumes in subsequent years. Volume two (1846) placed emphasis on symbolism in art, expressed through nature. The second volume was influential on the early development of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He produced three more volumes, with the fifth and final volume appearing in 1860.

The fifth volume marked the end of the formational and important part of Ruskin's life in which his father had a great influence.[3]



  1. ^ The Diaries of John Ruskin Vol I. (1835–1847) Ed. Joan Evans and John Howard Whitehouse, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1956
  2. ^ Orestano, Francesca (2012). "Chapter 6: John Neal, the Rise of the Critick, and the Rise of American Art". In Watts, Edward; Carlson, David J. (eds.). John Neal and Nineteenth Century American Literature and Culture. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. pp. 137–138. ISBN 978-1-61148-420-5.
  3. ^ John Ruskin: the early years 1819–1859. Tim Hilton. 1985. ISBN 9780300032987


  • Mark Jarzombeck, "Recognizing Ruskin: "Modern Painters" and the Refractions of Self", Assemblage, No. 32 (Apr., 1997), pp. 70–87

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