John Ruskin‘s statement is among his most quoted and is takes us right to a central motive for why painters paint—a motive that fundamentally shapes our idea of art and its place and role in our lives. Art holds up to us things we admire, love, and find praise-worthy. (It also goes directly to why—and how—we frame and display pictures. But that’s another story—here is an example expanding on this thought.)
“Fix, then, this in your mind,” he goes on to say,
as the guiding principle of all right practical labour, and source of all healthful life energy, – that your art is to be the praise of something that you love. It may be only the praise of a shell or a stone; it may be the praise of a hero; it may be the praise of God: – your rank as a living creature is determined by the height and breadth of your love; but, be you small or great, what healthy art is possible to you must be the expression of your true delight in a real thing, better than the art. … This is the main lesson I have been teaching, so far as I have been able, through my whole life, – only that picture is noble, which is painted in love of the reality. … If you desire to draw, that you may represent something that you care for, you will advance swiftly and safely. If you desire to draw, that you may make a beautiful drawing, you will never make one.
This manner of framing art is seen directly in the aedicule or tabernacle frame, which is a small architectural setting very much like a small chapel—a place of worship—originally made to house religious images. To some extent all frames are a place for expressed devotion, a place for, if not worship, giving praise.
It’s important to note that Ruskin’s not only talking here about painting and drawing, but asserts his statement “as the guiding principle of all right practical labour,” thereby placing art firmly in all productive work.« Back to Blog