The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06764
Date: [15 July/November 1878][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London?]
Recipient: [none]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W758
Document Type: MsN

Guide to the Principal Pictures[2] in the Academy of Venice
Arranged for English Travellers, by John Ruskin[3]

"For if a picture is good, it is better for being large, because it is more difficult to paint large than small; and if colour is good, it may be better for being bright."

..."; and therein, just on your right as you go in, is Mantegna's St George[4], No. 273; to which give ten minutes quietly, and examine it with a magnifying glass of considerable power." !

"Enter now the great room with the Veronese[5] at the end of it, for which the painter (quite rightly) * was summoned before the Inquisition of State[6]": ... but you must not stop now at this picture, if you are in a hurry, for you can see the like of it, and better, in Paris; but you can see nothing in all the world, out of Venice, like certain other pictures in the room".

And now, if you are yet unfatigued, you had better go back into the great room, and give thorough examination to the wonderful painting, as such, in the great Veronese, considering what all its shows & dexterities at last come to, and reading before it, his examination concerning it

Art Lectures - Lecture on M. Angelo. & Tintoret -[7]

[p. 2] I was crossing Lombardy in order to examine some points of the shepherd character in the Vaulois valleys. !! when I unexpectedly found some good Paul Veroneses at Turin - . . . With much consternation, but more delight, I found that I had never got to the roots of the moral power of the Venetians & that they needed still another & a very [illegible deleted word] stern course of study ..., The Winter was spent mainly in trying to get at the mind of Titian[8], not a light winters task - ....

It was long before I got quit of a boys veneration for Rubens[9]' phisical [sic] art power, and the reader will perhaps, on this ground, forgive the strong expressions of admiration for Rubens, which to my great regret occur in the 1st Volume[10] -

Dutch Painters .... Paul Potter[11], they.. their best cattle painter .....

(Van Eyke[12] [sic]
Vol. 4. 34)

Vol 2,
Vol 2

"It is especially to be remembered that drawings of this simple character were made for these same middle clas[s]es, exclusively: and even for the second order of middle classes, known more accurately expressed by the term "bourgeosie" [sic] -

...they gave an unquestionable tone of liberal mindedness to a suburban Villa, and were the cheerfullest [sic] possible decorations for a moderate sized breakfast parlour, opening on a nicely mown lawn"...

J. R. "Notes on Saml. Prout[14] & W. Hunt"

I have now given ten years of my life to the single purpose of enabling myself to judge rightly of Art ..... It is true, that the public still call me "an amateur," ...

I have however, given up so much of life to this object - earnestly desiring, to ascertain, and be able to teach, the truth respecting art; & also knowing that this truth was, by time and labour deffinitely [sic] ascertainable

J. R. Voll [sic] III - p. 7.


! [butterfly signature]

"And thus we are guided, almost forced, by the laws of nature, to do right in art. Had granite been white, and marble speckled (and why should this not have been, but by the definite Divine appointment for the good of man?), the huge figures of the Egyptian would have been as oppressive to the sight as cliffs of snow, and the Venus de Medicis[16] would have looked like some exquisitely graceful species of frog." Modern Painters. Vol. IV:

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1.  [15 July/November 1878]
Dated from subject, which relates to JW's libel suit against John Ruskin (see note below). According to Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934), textile expert and museum official [more], JW began making notes from Ruskin's writings on 15 July 1878 (see A. S. Cole, Diary, #13132). The case of Whistler v. Ruskin was heard at the Queen's Bench of the High Court on 25-26 November 1878. He could have made further notes at that time. The second page includes references to an essay by Ruskin published in the following year, 1879-1880 (see below), evidently added after the trial.

2.  Guide to the Principal Pictures
John Ruskin, Guide to the Principal Pictures in the Academy of Fine Arts at Venice, Venice, 1877. These notes relate to JW's preparations for his libel suit against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more], which took place from 25-26 November 1878. See also #06757-66, 12001. See John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin, E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), 39 vols., London, 1906, vol. 24, pp. 152-53, 156, 161-62, 185. These notes may either relate to the trial itself or JW's pamphlet Whistler, James McNeill, Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, London, 1878, published a month after the trial.

3.  John Ruskin
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more].

4.  Mantegna's St George
Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), painter [more], who painted St. George, 1467, oil on panel, Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice.

5.  Veronese
Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), painter [more]. In his pamphlet Whistler attacked Ruskin's teaching, 'How Gerard Dow's broom was an example for the young; and Canaletti and Paul Veronese are to be swept aside - doubtless with it. How Rembrandt is coarse, and Carlo Dolci noble - and more of this kind, But what does it matter? … What greater sarcasm can Mr. Ruskin pass upon himself than that he preaches to young men what he cannot perform!' (Whistler, James McNeill, Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, London, 1878, republished in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, pp. 31, 34).

6.  Inquisition of State
A reference to Veronese's appearance before the Roman Inquisition on 8 July 1573. Veronese was questioned about his substitution of a dog for the Magdalen in Paolo Veronese, Feast in the House of Levi (z80). In an appendix in the Guide, Ruskin tells the story as it is related in Edward Cheney's translation Original Documents relating to Venetian Painters and their Pictures. See John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin, E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), 39 vols., London, 1906, vol. 24, pp. 187-90.

7.  Lecture on M. Angelo & Tintoret -
Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564), sculptor and painter [more], and Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti) (1519-1594), Venetian painter [more].

8.  Titian
Tiziano ('Titian') Vecello or Vecellio (1485-1576), painter and engraver [more].

9.  Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), painter [more].

10.  1st Volume
Ruskin, John, Modern Painters, London, 1843-60

11.  Paul Potter
Paul Potter (1625-1654), animal painter [more].

12.  Van Eyke .... Vol 2 223
Jan Van Eyck (1389-1441), painter [more]. Written in brackets in left-hand margin in another hand.

13.  Etty
William Etty (1787-1849), painter of classical and historical subjects [more].

14.  Notes on Saml Prout...
Samuel Prout (1783-1852), watercolourist and painter of architectural subjects [more], and William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), artist [more]. John Ruskin, Notes by Mr. Ruskin on Samuel Prout and William Hunt in illustration of a loan collection of drawings exhibited at the Fine Art Society's galleries, in 1879-80, London, 1880.

15.  I have now...
This and the next paragraph have been bracketed together on the left side by JW.

16.  Reflection
'Reflection' followed by an exclamation mark '!' and JW's butterfly signature in left-hand margin. It appears to comment on the paragraph 'And thus we are guided [...] species of frog' from Ruskin's Modern Painters.

17.  Venus de Medicis
Venus de' Medici, celebrated work of Antique sculpture, possibly by a follower of Praxiteles, 1st century BC, now in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.