Drawings from the Tour of 1833

Drawings that Ruskin made during the Tour of 1833 from mid‐May to mid‐August—and possibly, some of them, after the familyʼs return home—are listed below in topographical order, according to the tour itinerary. I am grateful to Stephen Wildman for the basis of this list, which draws on holdings in libraries and galleries and on listings in catalogues.
Significantly more 1833 drawings have been documented than can presently be traced. Whether known only by a catalogue entry or accessible in a collection, however, examples span the scope of the Tour of 1833, highlighting the entrance to the Continent through northern France and Belgium; the Rhine journey; the passage through the Alps into northern Italy; the circle through Switzerland; and the return home via France. The earliest drawing to survive from the tour—a Proutesque pencil treatment of Hotel de Ville, Cassel—was not the first scene to be drawn. Ruskinʼs cousin, Mary Richardson, recorded in her travel diary that, on their first evening in Calais, “John and I drew a little before dinner a part of [the] sitting room” of their hotel, which she thought “a very handsome room, quite French” (Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, 2). There must have been other drawings of which no record survives, not even in Maryʼs diary.
The List of Tour Sketches
In the following list, titles cited with quotation marks refer to captions that Ruskin wrote directly on the tour sketch, and titles cited with quotation marks inside square brackets refer to captions devised by W. G. Collingwood. Titles that are not Ruskinʼs, or that cannot be definitely traced to him, are cited without quotation marks. Citation here of Ruskin, Works, volume 38, refers to the “Catalogue of Ruskinʼs Drawings” compiled for the Library Edition (38:215–306); Collingwood, Life and Work of John Ruskin refers to the “Catalogue of Drawings by Mr. Ruskin (1829–1859)” (1:238–43); Collingwood, Ruskin Exhibition, refers to the catalogue of the Ruskin Memorial Exhibition, Mechanicsʼ Institute, Coniston (1900); and Manchester City Art Gallery, Catalogue of the Ruskin Exhibition refers to the Ruskin Exhibition, Manchester (1904).
The Relation of the Tour Sketches to Illustrations for Account of a Tour on the Continent
Omitted from this list are the drawings that Ruskin made to illustrate Account of a Tour on the Continent, which occupied his creative energy for about a year following the familyʼs return in August 1833 (see “Account”: Date). These illustrations are annotated separately as part of ERMʼs edition of the “Account”. The tour sketches are distinct from the “Account” illustrations in style and other features, even though Ruskin used the tour sketches as the basis for some of the vignette‐style illustrations. These differences are described in Account of a Tour on the Continent: Missing and Unidentified Drawings for the Composite‐Genre Illustrated Travelogue (MS IX) and Related 1833 Tour Sketches. The “Account” illustrations should be understood less as records of a tour than as imitations of the visual media developed for travel publications in the 1830s, which allowed British readers to consume Continental scenery at home and as preparation for traveling abroad (see Hanson, “Ruskin in the 1830s”).
Ruskin himself makes this distinction in Praeterita, when reviewing his 1833 drawings. On the one hand, tour sketches evolved from “flying scrawls” captured “on the road”, from which he “made, when staying in towns, some elaborate pencil and pen outlines, of which perhaps half‐a‐dozen are worth register and preservation. My fatherʼs pride in a study of the doubly‐towered Renaissance church of Dijon was great. A still more laborious Hôtel de Ville of Brussels remains with it at Brantwood”. Yet, however worked up at a later time, these tour drawings are distinct from illustrations produced for the “Account” project, in which Ruskin explored the ekphrastic relation of text and the printed image. “The drawing of that Hôtel de Ville by me now at Oxford”, Ruskin goes on to explain in Praeterita, “is a copy of Proutʼs, which I made in illustration of the volume in which I wrote the beginning of a rhymed history of the tour” (Ruskin, Works, 35:80–81).
The method of capturing passing scenes for elaboration at a later time, as described in Praeterita, does appear to be broadly supported by the evidence of the drawings themselves. A slight architectural sketch on the Sheet of Six Swiss and Italian Views might be credibly interpreted as a “flying scrawl”, but the other five drawings on the sheet, which are careful pen‐and‐ink outlines of landscape vistas, would have required a stop along the road, for which the Ruskins had no leisure. According to Maryʼs diary for June 13, for example, the family “[r]ose at 5, breakfasted, and left immediately to cross the Splugen, one of the wildest and most beautiful passes of the Alps”. Surely they would not have risked breaking pace during this dayʼs journey, which ended at 7:00 p.m. on the other side of the mountain at Chiavenna, in order to allow John time to devise and outline “On the road to Splugen and “On the Rhine near Tusis. Ruskin must have designed these vistas later, just as Mary would have required the quiet of a hotel to compose her diary entries, which exactingly incorporate guidebook information (Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, 40–41). In fact, Johnʼs five vistas on the sheet can be interpreted specifically as a retrospective. Already formed into oval vignettes, their lines overlap and interlock at the edges, as if to form a retrospective panorama, which advances from crossing the Alps into Italy, to sighting “The Mediterranean and approaching Genoa in the south, to departing Italy again via the Alps at Domo dʼOssola. The sheet constitutes a kind of moving picture.
If the description in Praeterita of Ruskinʼs sketching routine is generally confirmed by the evidence, it should also be qualified and supplemented by remarks in Maryʼs diary. On the one hand, Maryʼs mention of an hour of sketching at Cassel proves that the outcome of that session, the surviving drawing (indeed, a “laborious” one) of Hotel de Ville, Cassel, cannot have been completed on the spot in that time. On the other hand, Praeterita neglects the fact that John and Mary spent that hour at Cassel sketching together. They also drew side by side at Andernach, where John began his Watch‐tower at Andernach, and again at Koblenz, where Maryʼs skill may even have gained her an upper hand (Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, 4, 22, 23; and for further discussion of “Part of the Town of Coblentz from the Northern Bank of the Moselle, see The Tour Sketches, the Illustrations for the “Account”, and Visual Culture of the 1830s).
It was perhaps more typical for John to sketch by himself; however, Praeteritaʼs summary of his practice, as jotting down “flying scrawls on the road” to be worked up into finished drawings “when staying in towns”, also overlooks his on‐site sketching while in the towns. Very early in the tour, John established a routine of leaving the hotel under the protection of the familyʼs courier, Salvador, to sketch for an hour after breakfast, and again for an hour or two between dinner, taken around 3 p.m., and tea, taken around 6:00 or 6:30. At these times, the rest of the family would be taking a walk or shopping (Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, e.g. 5, 6, 7, 12). First mentioned at Tournai, where John went out to sketch the cathedral, this routine eventually drops out of the diary—not, one conjectures, because John abandoned the practice, but because it became too common to be worth noticing, whereas Mary found greater interest in describing tourist sites in dense detail. It is also possible, however, that the elder Ruskins grew wary of the environs of Johnʼs sketching sessions, especially in larger cities, and reined in these excursions, even though accompanied by Salvador.
Confusions in Cataloguing the Tour Sketches and the Illustrations for the “Account”
Despite this distinction between sources and style of the tour sketches and the illustrations, an attempt to list the tour sketches from 1833 will likely perpetuate some confusion in earlier catalogues between the two kinds of drawings—confusion that can no longer be easily sorted out, since too little is known about drawings that cannot be traced. Drawings presumed to have been tour sketches may have been versions reworked for use in the fair‐copy “Account” (MS IX), but which became separated from the manuscript or were never permanently affixed there.
For example, of three documented drawings from 1833 of the Hôtel de Ville, Brussels, the one perhaps most likely to have been intended for use in the “Account” has disappeared. The tour‐sketch version that Ruskin characterizes in Praeterita as “laborious” does bear a consistent provenance, traceable in the Library Edition from Brantwood to the Manchester Ruskin Exhibition (1904); this drawing is now held by the Pierpont Morgan Library (see Ruskin, Works, 35:81 n. 1; 38:236). The “still more laborious” copy of Proutʼs lithograph, Hotel de Ville Brussells, from Facsimiles of Sketches Made in Flanders and Germany, is probably the same drawing that Ruskin exhibited at the Fine Art Society (1878). In the catalogue for that exhibition, “Notes on My Own Drawings and Engravings”, he describes the drawing as a copy after Prout, and not as an on‐the‐site tour sketch (in Notes by Mr. Ruskin on His Drawings by the Late J. M. W. Turner, R.A. [Ruskin, Works, 13:505]). The latter drawing appears to be Hôtel de Ville, Brussels, after Samuel Prout, now held by the Ruskin Library, Lancaster. It would be logical to associate this drawing with the MS IX fair copy of the “Account”, which presents a blank gap above the header for the section, Brussels; however, this Lancaster drawing is too large to have been tipped into the gap in MS IX. A drawing that may have been intended for that space, one described as a “miniature” version of Ruskinʼs copy after Prout, was exhibited at the Ruskin Memorial Exhibition, Mechanicsʼ Institute, Coniston (1900). Unfortunately, the present location of this drawing is unknown; and its catalogue description by W. G. Collingwood is too ambiguous to distinguish the drawing definitively from the Lancaster copy after Prout (see, for further discussion, Hôtel de Ville, Brussels; and Missing and Unidentified Drawings for the Composite‐Genre Illustrated Travelogue [MS IX] and Related 1833 Tour Sketches).
Such ambiguities seem particularly to beset the cataloguing of drawings from the 1833 tour, because of their near relation to Ruskinʼs production of illustrations for the “Account” in 1833–34. Yet despite the subsequent difficulty in untangling the provenance of similarly described and entitled drawings, Ruskin maintained a steady distinction—both in the 1830s when producing the drawings, and in the 1870s–80s when exhibiting them—between his tour sketching and his imitation of illustrated travel literature. In the case of the Brussels Hôtel de Ville drawings, Ruskin appears to have imitated Proutʼs drawing in stages, first copying the lithograph on a scale appropriate to the large original, and then reducing that copy to the scale appropriate to a steel‐engraved vignette.
Another source of obscurity in distinguishing the tour sketches from the illustrations for the “Account” may lie, not only with an inability to identify a catalogued work and trace it to its current location, but also with errors or duplications in the cataloguing itself. For example, according to the “Catalogue of Ruskinʼs Drawings” compiled for the Library Edition, an 1833 item, Sketches, Vignettes of Italian Scenes (Ruskin, Works, 38:259 [no. 898]), was exhibited at the Ruskin Memorial Exhibition, Mechanicsʼ Institute, Coniston (1900), listed as no. 7 in the catalogue of the exhibition (Collingwood, Ruskin Exhibition). Collingwoodʼs catalogue description for no. 7, “Sheet of vignettes, redrawn from sketches in North Italy, 1833”, is nearly identical, however, to a different 1833 entry in the Library Edition catalogue, A Sheet of Vignettes, Re‐drawn from Sketches in N. Italy (Ruskin, Works, 38:304 [no. 2100]). Could the editors of the Library Edition have created two separate entries for the same item? Or might they have confused two different items, given that the latter entry in the Library Edition catalogue, which bears a title suspiciously similar to Collingwoodʼs no. 7, is assigned a quite different exhibition history—not the Coniston Exhibition, but the Ruskin Exhibition, Manchester (1904), as no. 6 in that catalogue (Manchester City Art Gallery, Catalogue of the Ruskin Exhibition). The present location of neither item is known.
Apart from possible bibliographical confusion in these overlapping catalogue entries, the itemsʼ titles are in themselves intriguingly representative of both confidence and diffidence about the core problem of distinguishing the tour sketces from the “Account” illustrations. The title of no. 2100 in the Library Edition catalogue, which appears to have originated with Collingwood, A Sheet of Vignettes, Re‐drawn from Sketches in N. Italy, asserts an understanding of the process and outcome of “re‐drawing” a view from nature in order to shape an artifact of print culture, a “sheet of vignettes”. Just so, in the case of Ruskinʼs Brussels Hôtel de Ville drawings, Collingwoodʼs catalogue description of item no. 10 in the Coniston Exhibition claims that Ruskinʼs “copy” of a Prout lithograph “reduced [the original] to miniature scale” to make a vignette. In contrast, the title of no. 898 in the Library Edition catalogue, Sketches, Vignettes of Italian Scenes, suggests uncertainty about the distinction between a “sketch” and a “vignette”. Perhaps by 1912, when the Bibliography volume of the Library Edition was published, the editors had become less prone to square particular drawings and manuscripts with Ruskinʼs autobiographical narratives about how one should view the productions of his boyhood. For example, in a drawing now held by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Sheet of Six Swiss and Italian Views (and one wonders if this piece could be identified with the untraced Sheet of Vignettes, Re‐drawn from Sketches in N. Italy or the Sketches, Vignettes of Italian Scenes), all six of the mountain scenes are formed as small ovals that could fit into the spaces between text blocks in the fair‐copy “Account”, while they are also captioned and drawn in the outline style typical of the “flying scrawls” taken on the road.
Some problems in the “Catalogue of Ruskinʼs Drawings” can be explained as errors in dating. Landeck (pencil)—listed as no. 939 in Ruskin, Works, 38:260, and credited to the Cunliffe collection—cannot have been produced during the 1833 tour, since that journey did not include the Tyrol. The date of this drawing is corrected to 21 September 1835 and identified in Hanley and Hull, ed., John Ruskinʼs Continental Tour 1835, 228 (no. 96).
A second probable misdating is St. Radeguneʼs Abbey [i.e., St. Radegundʼs], which the editors of the Library Edition identified as an 1833 drawing on the basis of Ruskinʼs mention of the sketch in Fors Clavigera as “the first ‘remaining’ of Antiquity I ever sketched, when a boy of fourteen” (letter 27 [27 January 1873], Ruskin, Works, 27:492; and see Ruskin, Works, 38:280 [no. 1468]). If Ruskin meant that the sketch represented his first attempt at recording a historical monument during the tour of 1833, he was mistaken. The abbey ruins, which stand near Dover, would not have been accessible to him while the family awaited embarkation at Dover for the Continent, since Ruskinʼs cousin, Mary Richardson, makes clear in her travel diary that the family retired almost immediately on arrival in the town and departed for the steam packet early in the morning (Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, 1). It is possible that Ruskin had time to sketch the abbey on the return passage through Dover in August—the familyʼs movements at that stage are unknown, since neither Maryʼs journal nor John James Ruskinʼs travel diary describes the Channel crossing and return home—but it is more likely that, in Fors, Ruskin simply miscalculated the age at which he made the drawing. A drawing of St. Radegundʼs survives in the so‐called First Sketchbook (1831–32) that more aptly fits the description of an early attempt at sketching remains of antiquity. The Ruskins visited Dover in both 1831 and 1832.
The Tour Sketches, the Illustrations for the “Account”, and Visual Culture of the 1830s
The attempt to distinguish between the 1833 tour drawings and the illustrations for the “Account” is not meant to deny any relation at all between these kinds of drawings. Sketches served as the basis for vignette illustrations, a process documented in the evolution of Vignette after “Ancient Fortress and Rocky peak / Above the vale of Balstall; and Ruskin planned additional such adaptations of his tour sketches, as he noted in the List of Proposed Additional Contents for the “Account” (Table 2, Illustrations), where in several instances he planned to use “my own” drawings to fashion illustrations (as opposed to adapting printed images by other artists). Moreover, Ruskinʼs creation of the tour sketches themselves cannot be separated entirely from the visual culture of travel‐related publications that he more explicitly imitated in the illustrations for the “Account”. The influence of print culture on his tour sketching is perhaps what Ruskin means by remarking that he finished on‐the‐spot “outlines” with ideas “out of his head” later in the tour or at home in Herne Hill.
Later in life, it is true, Ruskin took little interest in the picturesque influences on his early sketches, instead valuing signs of an incipient keenness in observing nature. In Praeterita, he singles out only “half‐a‐dozen” 1833 drawings as “worth register and preservation” for their observable landscape truth. For example, in the 1878 Fine Art Society exhibition of his own drawings, Ruskin showed an 1833 drawing or group of drawings described as “a dayʼs sketching . . . between Arona and Domo dʼOssola on the same journey”, which, though “finished out of my head” at some later time, documented attention to real landscapes. This work, which came to be catalogued as Lago Maggiore and Domo dʼOssola, Ruskin considered “interesting” for its “proper economy of paper” and “weak enthusiasm”—qualities that he may have connected with his youthful engagement with print culture. What prompted him to exhibit the work in 1878, however, was its evidence of “fastening so early” on a landscape truth that he would illustrate over two decades later in a drawing called The Rock of Arona made for Modern Painters IV. In the Modern Painters volume, this drawing occurs among the chapters on “Sculpture of Mountains” to illustrate a discussion of rocky precipices. Ruskin traces the “real rock lines” that follow a “parabolic flow” in overhanging rock forms, arguing that, in nature, these parabolic lines trace a “delicate overhanging” that becomes “cautiously diminished as [the precipice] gets higher”. In contrast, Claude Lorrain and Renaissance painters were “fond of representing . . . overhanging of rocks with buildings on the top, and weeds drooping into the air over the edge, always thinking to get sublimity by exaggerating the projection” of their fantastically beetling precipices (Ruskin, Works, 13:505; 6:310–11 and pl. 41).
Ruskinʼs later emphasis on truth‐to‐nature has influenced critics in their approach to the early tour sketches, which typically consists in sifting bona fide factual observations from the chaff of conventionality. Paul H. Walton, for example, singles out bits of “observation” amid the “timid drawing style, limited at this time by eighteenth‐century conventions” (Walton, Drawings of John Ruskin, 14). Yet Ruskinʼs youthful observations of nature were themselves prompted by the visual and print culture of his decade. Whatever adumbration of Modern Painters IV Ruskin later found in his sketches in Arona, his observation may have been directed by William Brockedonʼs Illustrations of the Passes of the Alps, which he received for his February 1834 birthday. In Brockedonʼs plate, Lago Maggiore, which Ruskin planned to copy as an illustration for the “Account” (see List of Proposed Additional Contents for the “Account”: Maggiore), the viewer finds “the overhanging precipice beneath which the route of the Simplon passes to Arona”; as commented in the accompanying text, “it is difficult to pass” beneath this precipice “without feeling an emotion of danger” (Illustrations of the Passes of the Alps, “The Pass of the Simplon”, 17, 18). The emotion is not forced by exaggerating the landscape features, which are peaceful in Brockedonʼs plate; the only bizarre element is injected by art, rather than nature—the colossal statue of St. Carlo Borromeo, which extends a blessing over the hills. Even this presence is omitted in Ruskinʼs poem for this section, which erases the statue but keeps the word “colossally”, applying it to the surrounding moutains, “spirits of gigantic things / Lords of the earth and air and sky” (“It was an eve of summer mild” [“Lago Maggiore”]). Also in the emotion of Brockedonʼs illustrated travelogue, as well as in the Ruskinsʼ experience of travel, lay the realization of recent history: atop the precipice above Arona stood the Rocca di Arona, an ancient fortress owned by the Borromeo family, in 1800 reduced to a ruin by Napoleonʼs army.
These multiple and interpenetrating influences—observation from travel, print illustration of travel, a lived awareness of history—come together strikingly in another tour sketch, “Part of the Town of Coblentz from the Northern Bank of the Moselle. Before the Ruskins departed for the Continent, a part of this scene was already vivid to them from Samuel Proutʼs lithograph, Coblence. According to Praeterita, that plate was presented as the specimen print in the shop where John and John James entered their name as a chief subscriber to Proutʼs Facsimiles of Sketches Made in Flanders and Germany. For the “Account”, Ruskin planned, but apparently never carried through with copying some portion of this lithograph to illustrate the section, Ehrenbreitstein (see Coblentz and gloss). Instead, the buildings in Proutʼs picturesque scene form part of a different kind of drawing that Ruskin made in Koblenz—a panorama of the medieval buildings of Koblenz viewed from across the Moselle River.
Both the lithograph and the panorama were new technologies of early Victorian visual culture, but posed a differing relation to the consumer. Lithography, as a means of reproduction, offered an intimate connection with the artist, since the medium “multiplied originals” drawn on the stone by the artist himself, without the intermediary of an engraver. Although in fact successful artistic lithography required codependency between the artist and the printer, and artists developed specialized lithographic techniques that emulated other forms of printmaking, the medium persuasively suggested direct connection between the artist and the viewer—particularly so in the case of Proutʼs Facsimiles of Sketches Made in Flanders and Germany, which was marketed directly by the artist through subscription, with copies distributed by members of his own family (Twyman, Breaking the Mould, 5–6, 22–23, 68–81; Lockett, , Samuel Prout, 74–77). Panorama, in contrast, was public spectacle, produced by teams of artists. The grandest was Hornorʼs London Panorama, which Ruskin mentions indirectly—and not approvingly—in the “Account” (“It was a wide and stretchy sweep”; and see The Colosseum, Hornorʼs London Panorama, and the Diorama in Regentʼs Park).
Accordingly, Ruskinʼs plan to scale down Proutʼs lithograph, Coblence, to a vignette was better suited for use in the “Account” than was the panorama‐inspired “Part of the Town of Coblentz, which could not be scaled down at all and remain the kind of representation it is. It is jarring, therefore, to see the buildings in Proutʼs picturesque lithograph stationed at the left end of Ruskinʼs line of facades along the Moselle, drawn in spare outline rather than in Proutʼs crumbly textures. Proutʼs subject, the Gothic Schöffenhaus and the Romanesque Florinskirche, anchor the left end of the panorama, while, farther to the right, the cityʼs mother church, the Romanesque Liebfrauenkirche presents its profile, recognizable by its baroque Welschen hoods capping the towers. On the right end, the panorama is framed by the thirteenth‐century Alte Burg (Old Castle), and the Balduinbrücke (Baldwin Bridge), which connects to the castle at a right angle to the plane of the picture, spanning the Moselle. The drawing seems to eschew the artistic personality of Proutʼs Facsimiles or Turnerʼs vignettes for Rogersʼs Italy, and to substitute an objective overview of the medieval center of the town.
At the same time, the circumstances in which the drawing was made can be interpreted as domesticating its spectacular viewpoint. Mary Richardson noted in her diary that, after dining immediately on arrival in Koblenz, “John and I went over both the bridges to draw, accompanied by Anne [the family nurse] and Salvador”, while “Uncle and Aunt ascended a little hill from whence they had a fine view”. The childrenʼs view‐seeking was more ambitious: their hotel, the Cheval Blanc, stood on the east bank of the Rhine, the Ehrenbreitstein side, meaning that, to reach the viewpoint shown in Ruskinʼs drawing, they had to cross “both the bridges”—the pontoon bridge across the Rhine from the village of Ehrenbreitstein to the old city of Koblenz; and then the stone bridge, Balduinbrücke, across the Moselle from the old town. Like this brave excursion, the panoramic drawing suggests the boldness of the older cousin, and perhaps her instruction or participation, since Johnʼs drawing rather strenuously applies linear perspective. This teaching was a specialty of the drawing tutor, Charles Runciman, who after all was Maryʼs teacher before he was Johnʼs (Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, 23; and for the Cheval Blanc, see Murray, Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 227).
Untraced Tour Sketches and Illustrations for the “Account”
The relative scarcity of surviving 1833 drawings might not be suprising for such early drawings, were it not for the eagerness with which examples were collected and exhibited, both by Ruskin himself in his infrequent exhibitions, and by his admirers in the more numerous exhibitions following soon after his death. The exhibition of these drawings in the decade after 1900 doubtless testifies to the popularity of Ruskinʼs autobiography, Praeterita, in which Ruskin describes his youthful art training. More generally, however, British collecting in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was marked by a desire for biographical and bibliographical comprehensiveness, from boyhood to maturity, whether of drawings or writings (see Collecting of Modern Authors in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries). A collector of Ruskinʼs drawings who was apparently driven by this ambition, and whose name appears more than once in the list below, was Robert Ellis Cunliffe (ca. 1848–1902).
Two 1833–34 drawings that cannot be located—[“Watch‐tower at Andernach”], and [“The Jungfrau from Interlaken”]—are preserved in facsimile by photogravure. According to W. G. Collingwood (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:vii), these nineteenth‐century reproductions preserved the originalsʼ dimensions. If so, the Andernach drawing must have been a tour drawing, since, as reproduced, its dimensions would have been too large to have served as a vignette illustration in MS IX. In contrast, the size and shape of the Interlaken (Switzerland) drawing, as shown in reproduction, suggest that the original was intended as a vignette illustration, probably destined for the uncompleted section The Jungfrau in the “Account”.
It is ironic that the originals of these photogravures vanished in a process of reproduction that, in W. G. Collingwoodʼs characterization, was driven by a desire for authenticity. According to his “Prefatory Notes on the Plates” in the 1891 edition of Ruskinʼs Poems, Collingwood along with the “publisher, engravers, and printers” was motivated by an “anxiety . . . that the plates should represent the original drawings as accurately as modern skill permits”. As a foil, Collingwood characterizes the “old standard art” of engraving used to illustrate Ruskinʼs earlier books as a “joint” project of designer and engraver, like “concerted music” performed by “players on different instruments”. An authentic solo performance by the designer was not reproducible on a mass scale; “it was never . . . [the artist and engraverʼs] intention to give the style and touch of the draughtsman, his separate individuality, his momentary mood, as shown in the very material and handling of the original sketch”. But now with the invention “of modern photographic engraving”, Collingwood believed, this authentic individuality had come within reach of reproducibility. He regarded photogravure as an attempt “to reproduce the master, to facsimile the authentic document”. This faith in photographic reproduction aligned with Collingwoodʼs biographically oriented editorial aims: “this is what we want here in such pictures as rightly illustrate a collection of Poems written in Youth, in bygone historic times, recording a famous manʼs childhood and boyhood, his first impressions and fresh ideas of the world and of life”. Photographic engraving promises to supply “genuine records of the traditional precocity which we should like to verify: some true measure of the progress which we suspect, but cannnot otherwise trace, by which genius was developed. We want to see Ruskinʼs drawings, and not engraverʼs plates” (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:v).
In the 1891 Poems (large‐paper edition only, the octavo edition containing no plates), the “Prefatory Notes on the Plates” complements the “Preliminary Note on the Original MSS. of the Poems”, but the former was placed at the front of volume one, and the latter at its end, presumably because the physical witnesses of the photogravure plates were regarded as the closest possible encounter with the actuality of Ruskinʼs youth. Comparatively, the edited and printed poems placed the material manuscripts at a step removed, mediated by the editor, although some compensation was afforded by photogravure reproduction of samples of Ruskinʼs early handwriting, as well. Collingwood admits that “no reproduction can be quite the same thing as an original, if the original owe any of its interest to the more subtle artistic qualities of line and tone”. The benefit of photogravure, in Collingwoodʼs mind, lay in its “mechanical reproduction by a method which, clever and charming as it is, adds nothing to . . . [the sketchesʼ] cleverness and charm”—the mechanization assuring that what was conveyed was at least purely authentic, however deficient otherwise. Collingwood evidently perceived no significant contradiction between this faith in mechanization and his admission that “Messrs. Walker and Boutallʼs photogravures” were “helped by Mr. George Allenʼs retouching” (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:vi). But what seemed comparatively to liberate reproduction of an artifact from human intervention in the 1890s now seems quaintly like handicraft. From a twenty‐first century perspective, the early stage of “photogravure was a hand process”; the skill incorporated the eighteenth‐century technique of aquatint, and “early attempts to print photographs in ink often included efforts to retain . . . [the] capacity to manipulate the image” through “intrusions of handwork” (Benson, The Printed Picture, 236, 232).
Passages quoted from Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833 © The Ruskin, Lancaster University.
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