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THE CALL TO OXFORD.
The main object of this journey to Venice was,
, however, not to study mythology, but to continue the revision of old estimates of architecture, and after seventeen years to look with a fresh eye at the subjects of “Stones of Venice.” Beside some preliminary sketches of Carpaccio's St. Ursula, Mr. Ruskin was busy with drawings of Venetian buildings; but he soon removed to Verona, for careful studies of the Scaliger tombs and of Lombard architecture. Much of the work of this year is in pencil, or in pencil with a wash of quiet tint; but he began to paint also in realistic color, more freely than before; sometimes with Chinese white, and sometimes in pure water-color, without the pen-outline; but tending to much greater completeness and elaboration. Up to 1863 his sketching had been that of a chiaroscuro draughtsman, sometimes rising into very fine broad masses of abstract color, based upon the light and shade, and sometimes indulging in color-experiments. Then came a period during which he drew and painted very little. Then, after 1868, he resumed his sketching in quite a new spirit, akin to the naturalistic color of Carpaccio, in the same sense, and to the same extent, as his earlier style had been akin to the strong light-and-shade style of Tintoret; not consciously imitating either master, at either time, but reflecting in his landscape-method the feeling which had led him to sympathize with them.
As assistants in this enterprise of recording the monuments of Venice and Verona, and of recording them more fully and in a more interesting way than by photography, he took with him Arthur Burgess and John Bunney, his former pupils. Mr. Burgess was the subject of a memoir by Mr. Ruskin in the “ Century Guild Hobby Horse” (April, 1887), appreciating his talents and lamenting his loss. Mr. Bunney, who had traveled with Mr. Ruskin in Switzerland in 1863, and had lately lived near Florence, thenceforward settled in Venice, where he died in 1882, after completing his great work, the St. Mark's now in the Ruskin Museum at Sheffield. A memoir of him by Mr. Wedderburn appeared in the catalogue of the Venice Exhibition at the Fine Art Society's Gallery in November, 1882.
The restorations of Sta. Anastasia and other acts of vandalism made it evident that no time was to be lost in securing these records. They painted hard for about three months at Verona; Mr. Ruskin often sleepless at night with anxiety and excitement. When he had been about six weeks at this work, he was invited by his friends, through the Dean of Christ Church, to stand for the professorship of fine art, lately founded at Oxford, as similar chairs were at the universities of Cambridge and London, by the bequest of Felix Slade, Esq.
Six years earlier, while being examined before the Royal Academy commission, he had been asked : " Has it ever struck you that it would be advantageous to art if there were at the universities professors of art who might give lectures and give instruction to young men who might desire to avail themselves of it, as you have lectures on geology and botany?” To which he had replied: “Yes, assuredly. The want of interest on the part of the upper classes in art has been very much at the bottom of the abuses which have crept into all systems of education connected with it. If the upper classes could only be interested in it by being led into it when young, a great improvement might be looked for; therefore I feel the expediency of such an addition to the educa. tion of our universities." His interest in the first phase of university extension, and his gifts of Turners to Oxford and Cambridge, had shown
that he was ready to go out of his way to help in the cause he had promoted. His former works on art, and reputation as a critic, pointed to him as the best-qualified man in the country for such a post. Though he had figured as a heretic some years before, his Rede lecture and recent studies in Greek mythology in the school of Max Müller could be set off against the escapades of “Unto this Last” and the “Crown of Wild Olive.” There was no doubt that the election would be a popular one, and creditable to the university. On the other hand, Mr. Ruskin as professor would have a certain sanction for his teaching, he believed; the title and the salary of £358 a year were hardly an object to him; but the position, as accredited lecturer and authorized instructor of youth, opened up new vistas of usefulness, new worlds of work to conquer; and he accepted the invitation. On August 1oth he was elected Slade professor, and, about the same time, honorary student of his old college, Christ-Church.
He returned home by the end of August to prepare himself for his new duties. During the last period he had been giving, on an average, half a dozen lectures a year, which amply filled his annual volume. Twelve lectures were required of the professor. Many another man would have read his twelve lectures and gone his way; but Mr. Ruskin was not going to work in that perfunctory manner.
1 The electors were the Very Reverend Dr. Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, Dr. Acland, and the Rev. G. Rawlinson, being three of the curators of the university galleries; the Rev. H. O. Coxe, Bodley's Librarian; Sir Francis Grant, President of the Royal Academy of London ; George Grote, Esq., President of University College, London, and R. Fisher, Esq., one of the executors of the will of the late Felix Slade, Esq., the donor.
He undertook to revise his whole teaching; to write for his hearers a completely new series of treatises on art, beginning with first principles and broad generalizations, and proceeding to the different departments of sculpture, engraving, landscape-painting, and so on; then taking up the history of art, an encyclopædic scheme, for which, no doubt, he was qualified, which he could have carried out if he had found nothing else to do. But he took this Oxford work, not as a substitute for other occupation, exonerating him from farther claims upon his energy and time, nor as a by-play that could be slurred. He tried to do it thoroughly, and to do it in addition to the varied work already in hand, under which, as it was, he used to break down, year after year, after each climax of effort.
This autumn and winter, with his first and most important course in preparation, he was still writing letters to the “ Daily Telegraph,” being begged by Carlyle to come, — “the sight of
your face will be a comfort,” says the poor old man, — and undertaking lectures at the Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, and at the Royal Institution, London. The Woolwich lecture, given on December 14th, was that added to later editions of