Unreal Nature

March 13, 2016

Violence and Rudeness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:57 am

… if you were unable to bestow your admiration and affection on a fascinating child in the nursery without at once finding yourself compelled to rush downstairs and cut its mother’s throat and stifle its grandmother!

This is from A Free House! or the artist as craftsman: Being the Writings of Walter Richard Sickert, edited by Osbert Sitwell (1947; 2012):

… What puzzles me, and inspires me with grave doubts of their competence — it being never absent from my mind that other reasoners may deduce, from the same experiences, quite different conclusions — is the cocksureness of writers who cannot draw as well as I do, which isn’t saying much.

Sickert_self_portrait1907
Walter Sickert, The Juvenile Lead (Self Portrait), 1907

… I have lately been reading again some of Ruskin’s writings. Here, again, I am certain that for twenty years or so a whole generation have skipped to most superficial and journalistic conclusions. The bulk of Ruskin’s writing is not invalidated because of his attack on Whistler. A certain girlish petulance of style that distinguished Ruskin was not altogether a defect. It served to irritate and fix attention, where a more evenly judicial writer might have remained unread.

[line break added] The pretension of a great critic is not like the pretension of the ridiculous modern being called an expert. A great critic does not stand or fall by immunity from error. Ruskin, nourished on traditions totally opposed to those on which Whistler was based, failed to understand Whistler, and, as spoilt ladies and gentlemen are liable to do, expressed his failure with violence and rudeness.

… I would beg the superficial persons, to whom the art columns of the newspaper are generally entrusted, to revise their attitude as follows: You are not to consider that every new and personal beauty in art abrogates past achievement as an Act of Parliament does preceding ones, or that it is hostile to the past.

[line break added] You are to consider these beauties, these innovations, as enrichments, as variations, as additions to an existing family. How barbarous you would seem if you were unable to bestow your admiration and affection on a fascinating child in the nursery without at once finding yourself compelled to rush downstairs and cut its mother’s throat, and stifle its grandmother! These ladies may still have their uses.

Sickert_byBeresford1911
portrait of Walter Sickert by George Charles Beresford, 1911

-Julie

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