London: Printed at the Chiswick Press, for the Fine Art Society, 1878. Large quarto, measuring 11 x 8.75 inches: , 188, . Contemporary polished tree calf, floral gilt rules to boards, raised bands, spine compartments ruled and elaborately decorated in gilt, black morocco spine label lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, other edges uncut. Thirty-five photogravure plates, two-page map of “Turner’s Haunts” included in pagination. Occasional trivial scuff to binding, expert repair to joints. With: entrance ticket, measuring 5.5 x 3.5 inches unfolded, printed in brown ink on heavy blue paper and completed in ink, with small mounted sepia photograph. Ticket creased and a bit spotted.
Illustrated edition, “the most complete of any,” of John Ruskin’s annotated catalogue of his collection of drawings and watercolors by J.M.W. Turner, published to commemorate the 1878 London exhibition of the pictures at the Fine Art Society. Ruskin’s lifelong advocacy of Turner is one of the most powerful examples of critical tastemaking in English art history. Ruskin’s father was an early patron of Turner, and the young critic grew up surrounded by his pictures, sometimes watching as Turner worked. As a teenager, Ruskin wrote an impetuous defense of Turner in response to a harsh review; although unpublished, that essay was the origin of Ruskin’s five-volume work, Modern Painters (1843-1860), which placed Turner’s atmospheric, almost abstract style at the forefront of modern art. The 1878 exhibition of Ruskin’s Turner collection was a major event, reviewed on both sides of the Atlantic. In this catalogue, Ruskin divides Turner’s career into periods, and comments directly on most of the exhibited pictures, thirty-five of which are reproduced in photogravure. Ruskin emphasizes Turner’s turn toward the elegiac in later life: “he shows clearly the sense of a terrific wrongness and sadness, mingled in the beautiful order of the earth.” Revisiting these drawings in preparation for the exhibition, and shaken by the personal memories they evoked, Ruskin suffered a breakdown while writing the catalogue; the early editions were issued incomplete. This illustrated edition, published late in 1878, contains Ruskin’s finished epilogue and the second part of the catalogue, covering Ruskin’s own drawings and engravings after Turner. The catalogue is accompanied by an original entrance ticket to the exhibition, featuring a mounted photograph of Turner’s “The Fighting Téméraire,” and admitting “Mr. Ward” for the run of the show. The painter William Ward (1829-1908) was a prolific copyist of Turner’s watercolors, whose efforts Ruskin encouraged, and whose reproductions Ruskin personally annotated to distinguish them from the originals: it is a pleasure to think that this might be William Ward’s ticket, but we cannot say for sure. This copy does not contain the blindstamp of the Fine Art Society, but collates complete, with all plates. Wise 231. A near-fine copy of a landmark catalogue, splendidly bound by Stocker, accompanied by an original ticket to Ruskin’s Turner exhibition.