Wednesday, December 4, 2019

And Now John Ruskin with Your Forecast..."

In his essay, “John Ruskin: Sermons and Stones,” (The New Criterion, 11/19), Paul Dean says this about the declining years of the great ideologist of pre-Raphaelitism: “One consequence of Ruskin’s mental disturbance was a growing obsession with the weather. One of the few things still generally known about him is that he coined the phrase “the pathetic fallacy” in Modern Painters, and his conviction that storm-clouds portended apocalyptic disaster is a textbook example of this.” Atmospheric conditions are usually considered like wallpaper. But there are, of course, people who look at them as omens and can’t tolerate one form of weather or another because of finding it disconsonant with their own being. When pilots talk about having “weather,” the forecast is usually bad. However, a sunny day might be like water to the Wicked Witch for someone with a phlegmatic personality. The Pre-Raphaelites placed great store on innocence. As Dean relates, Ruskin had a history of being obsessed with much younger women, falling in love with the 18-year-old Kathleen Oleander, who he encountered in the National Gallery, when he was almost 70. The virginal quality of the infatuation might have found a voice in the florid poetry of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who along with John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt were founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  Ruskin had become famous as the great advocate of Turner and from a meteorological point of view you might say that Turner painted in a kind of cloud, as if he were perpetually preparing himself for a rainy day. In an alternate universe, Ruskin might very well have replaced Lonnie Quinn, the weather anchor on CBS 2 news at ll.

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