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James Whistler versus John Ruskin

Another one of the most famous facets of James Whistler’s role in art was “his libel suit against the art critic John Ruskin. ” (Landry 1997). Their conflict embodied the fight of the newborn aesthetic movement and the Victorian Age concept of art, a struggle between a new point of view in art against an established ideals. Whistler accused Ruskin of libel because of the latter’s harsh reviews of the Whistler’s Nocturne in Blue and Gold.

Moreover, apart from Whistler’s victory in his libel suit against Ruskin, Ruskin was apparently not very fond of the “works of Whistler, as was shown in his lecture delivered in Oxford in 1873. ” (Landry 1997). As stated by Ruskin, he blurted that he had never witnessed “anything so impudent on the walls of any exhibition, in any country, as last year in London. It was splatter pretending to be a harmony in the colors white and pink; absolute rubbish, and which had taken about a quarter of an hour to scribble or smear – it had no right to be called painting.

” (Landry 1997). This criticism was not absolutely unexpected, for he put into the canvas the outcome of the meshing of his influences, which were the French avant-garde, the traditional painting method of the British and the fame of Japanese art which was the result of the trade and commercial dealings with Asia. On the other hand, the rude criticism, it was expected of Ruskin, for he had lived a gloomy childhood, “being an only child, a boy who grew up without toys, without playmates, and raised in the sternest of discipline. ” (Landry 1997).


James MacNeill was a distinction among the many great men in the field of arts. His was a combination of skill, creativity, and the most outstanding of his artistic traits, his belief in himself, his work and his ideas, which revolved around on what he perceives as art, of as essential to art. The criticism of Ruskin was simply just a bump in the road, for it never did any good to Ruskin, and it only blemished his reputation, and on the part, of Whistler, he was criticized because of what he did, and that was to be bold in the work that he had done.

James Whistler possessed another trait that defined him – his choice to stray away from the traditional and common, and in doing so, he had created a dimension in art which only he could understand. Hats off to Mr. Whistler!

Works Cited: “American Attitude: Whistler and His Followers. ” 2004. Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc. , an Arizona nonprofit corporation. 17 June 2007 <http://www. tfaoi. com/aa/4aa/4aa345. htm>. Landry, Erin. “Whistler vs. Ruskin: Morality in Art versus Aesthetic Theory. ” Whistler vs. Ruskin. 1997. 16 Jun 2007 <http://www. loyno. edu/history/journal/Landry. htm>.

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