Study of an Architrave
inscribed ‘Over the door’
pencil and watercolour
6 ¼ x 8 in. (15.9 x 20.3 cm.)
Ruskin had a somewhat paradoxical view of the art of watercolour. He regarded watercolour painting to be “in every way harmful to the arts; its pleasant slightness and plausible dexterity divert the genius of the painter”. Despite his reservations, Ruskin was a prolific artist with an output well in excess of two thousand drawings. Ruskin’s own watercolour style was based on Nineteenth Century professional work, rather than the picturesque approach of the gentleman amateur, and he received lessons from a number of outstanding instructors such as Copley Fielding and James Duffield Harding. In due course he was to form a collection of contemporary artists in watercolour second to none.
Given his wide ranging interests and ideas, there are numerous themes incorporated into his watercolours. He was equally happy recording fauna and flora as much as mountainous terrain and Italian architectural features; his love of Venice is well known. Ruskin lived to the age of eighty- three after a highly productive, but essentially sad, life punctuated by a series of mental breakdowns.