Further book reviews

Published on Wednesday 9 September 2015

We continue to feel very lucky as positive reviews for our Ruskin book trickle in from some important publications:

‘With almost supernatural intuition, Ken and Jenny Jacobson suspected that this [the Ruskin auction lot] was the prize for which they had long been searching. In the gripping preface to their magnificent book, Mr. Jacobson recounts the tense story of the sale…’

‘The book’s beautiful reproductions capture the magical combination of sharpness and delicacy that explains why Ruskin thought photography ‘the most marvelous invention of the entire century.’’

‘I’ve never read a monumental work of scholarship that is so clearly a labour of love as this. Every aspect of the discovery is illuminatingly elucidated: photography’s place in Ruskin’s career; his work as a photographer himself, helped by his long-suffering manservant John Hobbs, who learned to use the daguerreotype equipment he had to lug up mountains for his master; the relationship between art and photography in the mid 19th century; and the historical significance of these depictions of buildings of Venice and Tuscany, many recorded here for the first time in photography.

Ruskin was eager to capture the appearance of architecture that he feared was about to be wrecked by restoration yet, paradoxically, these images seem so haunting now because of the way that his pioneering use of photography pulled the buildings that he loved out of the dark of the past into the light of the modern world.’

Michael Hall
Country Life. August 5, 2015

‘The Jacobsons draw attention to Ruskin’s ability to create something more than a conventional image. They point to his selection of odd angles and corners, his liking for vertiginous views of rooftops and cascades and surrealist close-ups of rocks and glaciers. They suggest that his use of optical experiments and selective focus, his exploitation of the daguerreotype’s mixture of sharp detail and hazy light, mark him out as an artistic pioneer of the medium.’

‘It is a revelation to see pre-tourist Venice, Florence, Pistoia and Lucca, and the obscure incidental details are beguiling… The close-up details from the larger plates, which reveal these glimpses, are well chosen; and poignant imperfections – marks and blurs – have been faithfully reproduced.’

Ruskin also [as well as photographing with his valets] worked with professional photographers. The Jacbosons have identified one of these, Le Cavalier Iller, previously only known as ‘The Frenchman’ or ‘the poor Frenchman’, who is first recorded working in Nice in 1843.’

‘Carrying Off The Palaces, which is lavishly produced, meticulously documented and well footnoted, includes a catalogue raisonné of Ruskin’s collection.’

Lindsey Duguid
Times Literary Supplement. July 24 2015 (also reprinted in The Wall Street Journal on July 31, 2015)

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