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American Geographical Society

John Ruskin and the Geographical Imagination


Author(s): Denis E. Cosgrove
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Geographical Review, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Jan., 1979), pp. 43-62
Published by: American Geographical Society
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JOHN RUSKIN AND THE GEOGRAPHICAL


IMAGINATION*
DENIS E. COSGROVE

EOGRAPHERS have recently been moving away from purely theoretical and
G

quantitativeexaminationof the humanorganizationof spacetowardreexam-

ining the qualitative dimensions of our experience of landscape and the


uniqueness of place.1 The roots of geography lie in a nafve prescientific awareness of
place and of variation between areas.2 The geographical imagination is part of the
common experience of man, from which the professional geographer may easily
remove himself in the abstractions of theoretical landscapes.3 Aware of the degree to
which this occurred in the I950's and the ig60's, some geographers have begun to
develop approaches to the study of place and landscape that recognize and build upon
the phenomenological roots of our discipline.
Such a return to the origins of geographical understanding frequently reminds us
that many of the questions currently occupying the center of our attention have
received detailed examination in the past. Concern with the aesthetics of landscape,4
or with a growing tendency towards placelessness in modern landscapes" are by no
means solely a product of late twentieth-century thought. Results of neglected scholarship often have considerable value if reinterpreted in the light of subsequent
knowledge and of our own perspectives. This is true of John Ruskin whose contribution to the geographical study of landscape, though frequently cited in their work, has
not received from geographers the detailed examination it deserves.6
John Ruskin's literary output was enormous. Its sheer range is daunting to any
examination for consistent theories. His collected works, beginning in 1837 and
covering almost two-thirds of the nineteenth century, were published soon after his
death and run to thirty-nine volumes.7 Since that publication numerous volumes of
* Acknowledgements are due to The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, for permission to reproduce Figures
3 and 4; and to David Pepper and Howard Andrews for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
' This move has been pioneered particularly by Yi-Fu Tuan. See Yi-Fu Tuan: Topophilia: A Study of
Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values (Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1974); and
idem, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Univ. of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1977).
For an alternative approach to the subject see Jay Appleton: The Experience of Landscape (John Wiley
and Sons, London, 1975).
2 The point has frequently been made. See, for example, C.O. Sauer: The Morphology of Landscape, in
Land and Life: A Selection from the Writings of Carl Ortwin Sauer (edited by J. Leighly; Univ. of
California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1963), pp. 315-350, reference on pp. 315-317; Eric Dardel:
L'Homme et la Terre: Nature de realite geographique (Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1952); and
E. Relph: Place and Placelessness (Pion Ltd., London, 1976), pp. 4-6.
9 Hugh C. Prince: The Geographical Imagination, Landscape, Vol. 1 1, 1961-1962, No. 2, pp. 22-25.
'Appleton, op. cit. [see footnote i above].
5Relph, Place and Placelessness [see footnote 2 above].
6 Edmund W. Gilbert: British Pioneers in Geography (David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1972), p. 19;
Richard J. Chorley, Antony J. Dunn, Robert P. Beckinsale: The History of the Study of Landforms or The
Development of Geomorphology Before Davis (Methuen and Co. Ltd., London; John Wiley and Sons, Inc.,
New York, 1964), pp. xii-xiii; and John Kirkland Wright: Human Nature in Geography: Fourteen Papers,
1925-1965 (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1966), p. 22.
'The complete published works were first edited by E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn: The
Works of John Ruskin (Library Edition; 39 vols.; George Allen, London, or Longmans, Green and Co.,
New York, 1903-19 12). In this article references to Ruskin in parentheses refer to volume and page numbers
from that edition, and follow the specific reference to title, volume number, and date of the work being
cited.
* DR. COSGROVEis a senior lecturer in geography at Oxford Polytechnic, Oxford, England
OX3 oBP.

44

THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

letters, diaries, and notes have appeared, and the list continues to grow. Ruskin's
writings mirrored many of the concerns of Victorian society. They ranged over
subjects as diverse as landscape art, architecture, geology, conservation, restoration,
plant and animal studies, children's literature, socialism, and political economy. "In
his mind everything was more or less reflected in everything else," and to this
difficulty we might add that encountered in the variety and often florid nature of
Ruskin's prose style, which makes him an often unattractive writer for many modern
readers.8

From a wide popularity and enormous influence in his own day Ruskin quickly fell
out of fashion in the early part of this century. Interest revived in the 1940's,but it
centered on the debate over his personal life rather than on his work.' More recently
this has been balanced by a growing concern to discover a coherent program in his
vast output.10In this paper I examine the geographical imagination of John Ruskin to
demonstrate how it developed and was directed into a theoretical approach to
landscape that not only prefigures much of what geographers later said on the subject
but may also serve to guide us into a fruitful synthesis of the current concerns with
place or landscape and social critique.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF RUSKIN 's GEOGRAPHICAL

IMAGINATION

Love for landscape had "been the ruling passion of my life and the reason for the
choice of its field of labour" said Ruskin," and in his later life he claimed that "the
beginning of all my own right art work in life, . . . depended not on my love of art, but

of mountains and sea."12Ruskin's geographical imagination may be traced to three


early influences in his life. Born in 1819, he was a child of late romanticism, and his
early introduction to romantic writers-particularly Walter Scott-developed an
appreciation of mountain landscapes that he always maintained. Complementing and
extending the literary influence was the fact that the Ruskin family was wealthy
enough to afford an annual holiday of some months' duration that was spent moving
through the landscapes of Britain and later of Europe elegantly and slowly in a horsedrawn carriage. During his early childhood Ruskin saw much of England and
Scotland, and he later traveled in France, Germany, and northern Italy. Switzerland
was his most momentous experience. He described vividly his ecstasy at the first sight
of the Alps.13In later life Ruskin bemoaned the increased speeds of travel introduced
by railways and echoed familiar advice to geographers in recommending a carriage
speed of four to five miles per hour with frequent stops as the best pace for gaining a
detailed understanding of landscape.
The romantic impulse that directed the Ruskin family mainly toward mountain
scenery and the young John Ruskin's overwhelming sense of sublimity in the Alps
coupled with a natural empiricism, which early training in landscape sketching and
painting had developed. Although he claimed "whatever other faculties I may or may
'Kenneth Clark: Ruskin Today (John Murray, London, 1964), pp. xv-xvi.
'William Milburne James: The Order of Release (John Murray, London, 1947).
" Three books pertinent to the ideas discussed in this article are George P. Landow: The Aesthetic and
Critical Theories of John Ruskin (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J., 1971); Robert Hewison: John
Ruskin: The Argument of the Eye (Thames and Hudson, London, 1976); and John D. Rosenberg: The
Darkening Glass: A Portrait of Ruskin's Genius (Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1963).
""Modern Painters," Vol. III, I856 (The Works, Vol. 5, p. 365).
"2"The Eagle's Nest," 1872 (The Works, Vol. 22, p. 153); quoted in Hewison, op. cii. [see footnote io
above], p. '313 "Praeterita," Vol. 1, 1885 (The Works, Vol. 35, p. 115).

RUSKIN AND GEOGRAPHICAL IMAGINATION

45

not possess, this gift of taking pleasure in landscape I assuredly possess in a greater
degree than most men,"'"i his approach to that pleasure and its sources was never
purelv aesthetic but was linked to a scientific study of form.'5
For a period in his youth, Ruskin directed his interest in mountain scenery toward
a study of Alpine geology. He followed the controversy between H. 13. de Saussure
and the Huttonians concerning the crystallization of Alpine rocks, and he later
published a paper in the GeologicalMagazine defending de Saussure's position."6
Ruskin subsequently rejected a purely scientific approach to landscape.'7 The essence
or character of a landscape, he believed, was beyond science. It could not be captured
merely by concentration on external form and morphology:
The naturaltendencyof accuratescienceis to makethe possessorof it look for, and
eminentlysee, the things connectedwith his specialpieces of knowledge;and as all
accurate science must be sternly limited, his sight of nature gets limited accordingly.... And I was quitesurethat if I examinedthe mountainanatomyscientifically,
I
shouldgo wrongin like manner,touchingthe externalaspects.Therefore,. . . I closed
all geologicalbooks, and set myself, as far as I could, to see the Alps in a simple,
thoughtless,and untheorisingmanner;but to see them, if it might be, thoroughly.'8
Ruskin's approach to landscape was thus to be phenomenological.'"He wished to rid
himself of a priori notions and theory in order to see, or experience directly, external
phenomena and to develop an understanding from that direct or "lived" experience of
landscape rather than to explain it scientifically. The concern with seeing rather than
observing, with an engagement of self and landscape, became a central feature of
Ruskin's geography.
Though rejecting pure empiricism, Ruskin retained the early scientific eye for
accurate observation. In the Preface to the second edition of "Modern Painters" he
claimed that he would "endeavour to investigate and arrange the facts of nature with
scientific accuracy."20 His sketches and watercolors demonstrate this concern and
have caused some to accuse him of being a draftsman rather than an artist in his
drawing of nature. That this is far from true, though understandable, becomes
apparent when we consider his theory of association.2'
The third great influence on Ruskin's geographical imagination was his religion.
"4"Modern Painters," Vol. III, i856 (The Works, Vol. 5, p. 365).

"On empiricism in early nineteenth-century English landscape painting see Ronald Rees: John
Constable and the Art of Geography, Geogr.Rev., Vol. 66, 1976,No. 1' pp. 59-72, reference on p. 6i.
"8J.Ruskin: Notes on the Shape and Structure of Some Parts of the Alps, with Reference to Denudation, Geol.Mag., Vol. 2, 1865, No. 8, pp. 49-54 and No. I 1, pp. 193-196 (The Works, Vol. 26, pp. 2 1-34). For
a summary of the debate over catastrophic and uniformitarian theories concerning mountain geology see
Robert E. Dickinson and Osbert J. R. Howarth: The Making of Geography (Clarendon Press, Oxford,
pp. 163-167.
"' Modern Painters," Vol. IV, 1856, Appendix 2 (The Works, Vol. 6, pp. 475-481).
18Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 6, p. 475). Sauer had similar thoughts on the geographer as a nonspecialist.
See C. 0. Sauer: The Education of a Geographer, in Land and Life [see footnote 2 above], pp. 389-404,
1935),

reference on pp. 393-396.


19
phenomenological approach to landscape and place in geographv has been widely discussed. See,
for example, Edward Relph: An Enquiry into the Relations between Phenomenology and Geography,
CanadianGeogr.,Vol. 14, 1970,No. 3, pp. 193-201; and D. C. Mercer andJ. M. Powell: Phenomenology and
Related Non-positivistic Viewpoints in the Social Sciences (Dept. of Geography, Monash Univ., Melbourne, Vic., Australia, 1972).
20 Preface to the second edition of
"Modern Painters," Vol. I, 1844 (The Works, Vol. 3, p. 48).
21 Ruskin's education as a sketcher and
painter naturally influenced his ideas of beauty in landscape.
See P. Walton: The Drawings of John Ruskin (Oxford Univ. Press, London, 1972), for a discussion of his
early artistic education. By this time it is probably fair to say that the main features of Ruskin's
geographical "imagination" were already formed,

46

THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

The overwhelming power of his mother, a fanatical Scottish Protestant of Evangelical


faith, on Ruskin's whole life has frequently been stressed.22Robert Hewison points
out that one of the typical characteristics of Evangelism at that time was its typological approach to biblical exegesis.23The Bible contained not only a literal truth but
also a hidden meaning that the faithful had a duty to interpret. "It was an article of
faith that the Bible was a continuous account of God's revelation of himself to
mankind." Hewison shows how Ruskin transposed this pattern of thinking to his
approach to landscape. Landscapes contained a deep symbolic meaning, and close
attention to their literal truth expressed in form would also reveal, to the man of faith,
a symbolic truth about God and the goodness of his creation.2"George Landow has
called this a "theocentric aesthetic,"25and it underlies Ruskin's understanding of
beauty in landscape and art. All beauty is "either the record of conscience, written in
things external, or it is a symbolizing of Divine attributes in matter, or it is the felicity
of living things, or the perfect fulfilment of their duties and functions. In all cases it is
something Divine, either the approving voice of God, the glorious symbol of Him, the
evidence of His kind presence, or the obedience to His will by Him induced and

supported."26
Out of the stimulation of romantic thought that was enhanced by early travel
through mountain scenery, a scientific self-training in accurate observation that was
encouraged by his art teachers, and a religious experience that stressed the symbolic
interpretation of things, Ruskin's geographical imagination and his approach to
landscape were formed. His first publication may be read as a work of cultural
geography, and we may observe how from this early beginning Ruskin developed his
love of landscape into a coherent geographical theory-a theory that is remarkably
similar to one advocated by later geographers.
RUSKIN'S CULTURALGEOGRAPHY

Ruskin's first publications, a series of articles written from 1837 to 1838 for
Magazinewhile he was an Oxford undergraduate, were later
Loudon's Architectural
collected into a book titled "The Poetry of Architecture."27 The subtitle is clear
evidence of a geographical content: "The Architecture of the Nations of Europe
considered in Association with Natural Scenery and National Character." Ruskin
had intended to examine the range of architectural forms in the landscapes of western
Europe, from vernacular buildings to the high art of Architecture, but the full scheme
of the work was never realized. In the book he dealt only with "the cottage" and "the
villa." The scheme that Ruskin had proposed was arguably worked out under other
titles in the whole of his work before he turned explicitly to problems of political
economy. Ruskin himself recognized this and stated in a later reference to the chosen
subtitle: "I could not have put in fewer, or more inclusive words, the definition of
what half my future life was to be spent in discoursing of. "28 Ruskin's intention was
22James, op. cit. [see footnote g above]; and Hewison, op. cit. [see footnote io abovel, p. 24. Ruskin
described his mother and her influence on him in his autobiography.
23 Hewison, op. cit. [see footnote io above], pp. 26-27.
24Ibid., p. 27.
26 Landow, op. cit. [see footnote io above], p. 28.
26"Modern Painters," Vol. II, 1846 (The Works, Vol. 4, p. 210).
27 The articles were written under the pseudonym of Kata Phusis (According to Nature) and were first
published in book form in i873.
28"Praeterita," Vol. 1, 1875 (The Works, Vol. 35, p. 224).

RUSKIN AND GEOGRAPHICAL

IMAGINATION

47

to trace in the distinctivecharactersof the architectureof nations,not only its adaptation to the situationand climatein whichit has arisen,but its strongsimilarityto, and
connectionwith, the prevailingturnof mind by whichthe nationwho firstemployedit
is distinguished.2'

The essays in "The Poetry of Architecture" deal with the landscapes of England,
northern France, Switzerland and northern Italy-the countries that Ruskin had
traveled as a youth. The guiding theme is the notion that a harmony of man's
creations with the natural landscape is achieved through a recognition of those forms
and styles of building that are aesthetically suited to the predominant natural features
and forms of the environment. Such a recognition can only come from a free and
humble, unselfconscious realization by man of his place in God's ordained order of
nature.
Ruskin divided natural landscapes into four categories based on a combination of
dominant color tone and topography. The woody or green country, dominated by
woodland and a pastoral economy, was found under temperate climates and in
regions where an undisturbed landownership had maintained large wooded areas. "It
is to be seen in no other country, perhaps, so well as in England. In other districts, we
find extensive masses of black forest, but not the mixture of sunny glade, and various
foliage, and dewy sward, which we meet with in the richer park districts of England."30What Ruskin seemed to have had in mind was the Wealden district of Kent
and Sussex near his south London home, the Chilterns, and perhaps what we would
now describe as bocage. Distances of vision were fairly short so that the dominant
color was a fresh green. Such a landscape, Ruskin said, excited emotions of reverence
for its antiquity and a melancholy inspired by "the decay of the patriarchal trunks."3"
Any building in such countryside must reflect these aspects and feelings inherent in
the natural landscape. The roof, for example, should be set at an obtuse angle (for the
calculation of which Ruskin provided a simple geometrical formula), and the building
must be long and low so as to be partially obscured by the trunks of the trees. The
warm color of wood as a constructional material best harmonized with the environs.
The cultivated or blue country was rich champaign land, devoted primarily to
arable cultivation. Long views over cropland gave blue distances with a rich foreground of variegated colors that change rapidly with the seasons. Such change and a
dense population produced a variety of forms, and therefore a similar variety was
permissible in building types, so long as tone and character were cheerful. Of the
cottage, "neatness will not spoil it: the angle of its roof may be acute, its windows
sparkling, and its roses red and abundant; but it must not be ornamented nor
fantastic, it must be evidently built for the uses of common life."32Much of England,
particularly the Welsh marches (he cited the Malverns), and northern Italy once
belonged to this category.
The wild or grey country Ruskin identified as wide, unenclosed, treeless undulations of land. Best characterized by the Isle de France, such a landscape demanded
29"The Poetry of Architecture," 1873(The Works, Vol. [, p. 5). Walton (op.ci. [see footnote 21 abovel,
pp. 33-35) comments on the strong influence of Wordsworth's GuideThroughtheDistrictof theLakes(1835)on
Ruskin's writing.
3""The Poetry of Architecture," 1873 (The Works, Vol. i, p. 67).
31 Ibid. (The Works, Vol. i, p. 69). Ruskin's debt to eighteenth-century aesthetic theory of emotional
association is clear here, as elsewhere in his early work.
"2Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 1, p. 71).

48

THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

size and massiveness in building to complement the scale of the scenery, but a dark
color was necessary for the structure to blend into the darkness of long, featureless
distances.
The hill or brown country, Ruskin's final class of landscape, demanded a far more
sensitive approach in building than the others because of the low density of population and the variety of topographical character in mountain and high hill districts.
Such an observation, no doubt, was more expressive of Ruskin's own preferencesthan
of any other criteria, but he noted that in mountain scenery the actual setting of the
building assumed a paramount importance. The demands that this class of landscape
placed upon the builder were spelled out through a comparison of the Swiss cottage
and that of the English Lake District (Figs. i and 2).
Ruskin found the Swiss cottage, which he described in detail differentiating
between the upper summer residence or "chalet" and the lower winter residence that
he considered the cottage proper, poorly designed to harmonize with its landscape.
The reasons for his criticism were the use of wood as a material and the apparent
weakness of the cottage in the context of a powerful mountain environment. It looked
as if it might be swept away by the next spring thaw or rock fall. The criticism was an
aesthetic one, and Ruskin acknowledged in his description of the construction of
the cottage that it perfectly fitted its function; it did not, however, appear to. By
contrast he found the Westmoreland cottage of the English Pennines (Fig. 2) both
suited functionally to its environment and pleasing aesthetically. The hill or brown
country had a prevailing sense of solitude and loneliness. This was enhanced, according to Ruskin, by an occasional isolated cottage set against the mountains; but such a
building should not be too conspicuous. Its material, color and tone should be that of
the surrounding scenery:
Everythingaboutit shouldbe natural,andshouldappearas if the influencesandforces
whichwerein operationaroundit had beentoo strongto be resisted,and had rendered
all effortsof art to check theirpower,or concealthe evidenceof theiraction, entirely
unavailing.33
The Swiss cottage failed in that it did not bow to the forces of nature; it was too
conspicuous. The Lakeland cottage, built of stone, succeeded. Ruskin summarized
the geology of the hill areas of Cumberland and Westmoreland and the topography
that resulted from frost and fluvial action. The available stones for building provided
the obvious constructional material:
Thesestones, thus shapedto his hand, are the mostconvenientbuildingmaterialsthe
peasant can obtain. He lays his foundationand strengthenshis angles with large
masses,fillingup the intervalswith piecesof a moremoderatesize;and usinghereand
there a little cement to bind the whole together,and to keep the wind fromgetting
throughthe interstices;but neverenoughto fill themaltogetherup, or to renderthe face
of the wall smooth.
The dooris flankedand roofedby threelargeoblongsheetsof greyrock,whoseform
seems not to be consideredof the slightestconsequence."
Despite the apparent crudeness of the Lakeland cottage, of which Ruskin provided a
detailed description, it was preferable to the Swiss cottage. The reasons for Ruskin's
preference lay in the moral character of the two peoples (nations in Ruskin's terms)
-I Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 1, p. 44).
Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 1, pp. 45-46).

34

RUSKIN AND GEOGRAPHICAL IMAGINATION

49

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FIG. I-Cottage near Altorf, 1835;"Every canton has its own window. That of Uri with its diamond
wood-work at the bottom, is, perhaps, one of the richest" ("The Poetry of Architecture, i873, [The Works,
Vol. i, pp. 35 and 34]).

who built them. The English cottage represented a humble and unselfconscious
resolution of man in his alteration of nature to use the materials and followed the
forms inherent in the local environment-"the material which Nature furnishes, in
any given country, and the form which she suggests, will always render the building
the most beautiful, because the most appropriate."38
'" Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 1, p. 47). For a later extension of this argument see "Modern Painters," Vol.
IV, 1856 (The Works, Vol. 6, pp. 128-161).

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RUSKINANDGEOGRAPHICAL
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51

The argument so far may appear deterministic in an environmental sense, but it is


not entirely so. The full force of Ruskin's argument is that whether or not men will
follow the forms suggested by nature is a function of "national character." This
curious concept seems frequently chauvinistic in the book; for example, Ruskin
commented unfavorably on the mixed ethnicity of the Swiss and their lack of a
common language or religion.36But Ruskin used the phrase as almost an equivalent
to culture in the sense of a shared set of values and attitudes:
Man, the peasant, is a being of more marked national character,than man, the
educatedand refined.For nationalityis founded,in a greatdegree,on prejudicesand
feelingsinculcatedand arousedin youth,whichgrowinveteratein the mindas longas
its viewsare confinedto the place of its birth; its ideas mouldedby the customsof its
country,and its conversationlimitedto a circlecomposedof individualsof habitsand
feelingslike its own.37
National character assumed something of the nature of genrede vie-an expression of a
group's collective experience of its world-and became intimately associated with
place, and, in a peasant culture, centered particularly around religious beliefs. The
Swiss, with their variety of language, religion, and custom were, according to Ruskin,
incapable of a true national character, and this was reflected in the lack of harmony
between vernacular building and landscape. The inference is clearly weak and
expresses a limited understanding of culture, but the roots of a concept of localized
culture close to that of the later French School of geography are discernible. That
similarity becomes clearer in later, more mature works in which Ruskin abandoned
the concept of national character and focused on cultural groups in a narrower sense.
Man, nature, and place are, however, the dominating themes of "The Poetry of
Architecture," making it perhaps Ruskin's most obviously geographical work. It is
unfortunate that he did not extend the essays, as he had intended, to a consideration
of buildings in groups and to urban landscape, but the foundations of a cultural
geography are seen in his first work of scholarship.
RUSKIN'sTHEORYOFLANDSCAPE

Ruskin's theory of landscape was largely formulated and developed during the
writing of "Modern Painters."38 The work, which began as a defense of the landscape

paintings of J. M. W. Turner, developed and changed over the course of writing the
five volumes.39A coherent scheme may be traced from the five key ideas that Ruskin
claimed for art in volume one: the ideas of Power, of Imitation, of Truth, of Beauty,
and of Relation. For the purposes of interpreting "Modern Painters" as a geographical theory of landscape I condense this five-fold schema to a two-part approach to
distinguish between the observation of form in landscape and the "association" of
forms symbolically and to produce "orders" of landscape.
36 "The Poetry of Architecture," 1873 (The Works, Vol. 1, p. 40).
"Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 1, pp. 74-75). See Walton, op. cit. [see footnote 2 1 above], p. 33. Although ne
does not use the term "national character," Wilbur Zelinsky's discussion of American cultural characteristics and their expression in the American landscape is essentially woven around the concept, "the cultural
personality and behavior of American man." Wilbur Zelinsky: The Cultural Geography of the United
States (Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1973), p. 5.
38 Ronald Rees (op. cit. [see footnote 15
above] p. 59) describes "Modern Painters" as offering "a course
in physical geography for landscape painters." It is far more than merely physical geography but is
concerned with the "art of geography" and the relationship between imagination and empiricism.
9 Landow, op. cit. [see footnote io above] p. 23.

THE

52

REVIEW

GEOGRAPHICAL

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FIG.4-Market Place, Abbeville, i868; "I am nearly convinced that, when once we see clearly enough,
there is very little difficulty in drawing what we see" ("The Elements of Drawing and Perspective," 1894,
[The Works, Vol. 15, p. 131). (Photograph courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)
OBSERVATION OF FORM IN LANDSCAPE

Ruskin's concern.with accurate observation has already been mentioned. His own
perceptual ability and his powers of description were consciously developed through
drawing and painting and through adopting prose models from recognized authorities in the use of language. Ruskin's sketches and watercolors show a consistent eye
for detail in landscape: rock formations, the branches of trees, the structure of leaves,
and architectural decoration (Figs. 3 and 4). In 1894he published a text arising out of
his experience in teaching at the School of Drawing at Oxford.40In it he made clear
the value of measured and accurate drawing of the forms in landscape.
I am nearly convincedthat, when once we see keenly enough, there is very little
difficultyin drawingwhatwe see; but, evensupposingthatthis difficultybe still great,I
believethat the sight is a moreimportantthing than the drawing;and I wouldrather
teach drawingthat my pupils may learn to love Nature, than teach the lookingat
Naturethat they may learnto draw."
Landscape is best understood by a drawing of its constituent forms without
theoretical presupposition. Ruskin directed much of his criticism of landscape painters at their inaccurate representation of forms. Detailed separation of the forms of
topography-geology, rock structure, vegetation, clouds, and skies-and of human
40"The Elements of Drawing and Perspective," 1894 (The Works, Vol. 15).
4I Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 15, p. 13).

54

THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

artifacts, and their analysis through drawing lead us to see the landscape because
each element has its unique form, which reflects "that form to which every individual
of the species has a tendency to arrive," but which none fully attains."2
This is the meaning of a rather confusing discussion contained in the Preface to the
second edition of "Modern Painters,"" in which Ruskin attacked the theory that the
landscape painter should paint "ideal" landscapes by generalizing the visual scene.
In this sense, idealism suggests the presupposition of forms and arrangements in
nature deriving from ideas in the human mind, initially divorced from the facts of
landscape and subsequently imposed on them. Claude Lorraine was singled out as
particularly culpable in this regard. Such an approach Ruskin labeled "patently
absurd," an excuse for indolence. The ideal form might only be found by careful
observation of unique examples in nature.
Therefore the task of the painter, in his pursuit of ideal form, is to attain accurate
knowledge, so far as may be in his power, of the peculiar virtues, duties, and characters
of every species of being, down even to the stone, for there is an ideality of stones
according to their kind, an ideality of granite and slate and marble, and it is in the
utmost and most exalted exhibition of such individual character, order, and use, that all
ideality of art consists. The more cautious he is in assigning the right species of moss to
its favourite trunk, and the right kind of weed to its necessary stone; in marking the
definite and characteristic leaf, blossom, seed, fracture, colour, and inward anatomy of
everything, the more truly ideal his work becomes."
It is through concentration of observation on the unique that we come to see essential
character. Ruskin left us exquisite studies of form in landscape and a record of his
own experience in its perception through concentration. During one of his trips to
Italy he sat down by a roadside to sketch an aspen tree:
Languidly, but not idly, I began to draw it; and as I drew, the languor passed away: the
beautiful lines insisted on being traced,-without weariness. More and more beautiful
they became, as each rose out of the rest, and took its place in the air. With wonder
increasing every instant, I saw that they "composed" themselves, by finer laws than any
known of men. At last, the tree was there, and everything that I had thought before
about trees, nowhere.
But that all the trees of the wood ... should be beautiful-more than Gothic tracery,
more than Greek vase-imagery, more than the daintiest embroiderers of the East could
embroider, or the artfullest painters of the West could limn,-this was indeed an end to
all former thoughts with me, an insight into a new silvan world.45
For Ruskin, the discovery of truth in landscape was comparable with that experience
and knowledge that other writers have referred to as "essence" or "inscape.""
The medium for expression and study of form in landscape used by Ruskin was
literary as well as pictorial. His prose can be tortuous, but it can also reach dizzy
heights of descriptive power. It was always conscipusly constructed. At different times
Preface to the second edition of "Modern Painters," Vol. I, 1844 (The Works, Vol. 3, p. 27).
49Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 3, pp. 6-52).
""Modern Painters," Vol. II, 1846(The Works, Vol. 4, pp. 173- 174). In a later footnote to this passage
Ruskin claimed that "I never really meant 'all' ideality of art consisted in specific distinctions," but that the
passage was intended as a criticism of the kind of pictorial idealism seen in Claude and his school.
" "Praeterita," Vol. II, 1885 (The Works, Vol. 35, pp. 314-315).
46 Relph, Place and Placelessness [see footnote 2 above], pp. 42-43. Clark (op. cit. [see footnote 8 above],
p. 351) has drawn attention to the parallel betweeri Ruskin's approach to seeing "truth" in landscape and
Gerard Manley Hopkins' concept of 'inscape."
42

RUSKIN AND GEOGRAPHICAL

55

IMAGINATION

Ruskin modeled his prose on such stylists as Carlyle and Hooker, and his mastery of
the English language made it a vehicle for accurate expression of Ruskin's perception
...,:
..
,,..:;!
U
,........

S~~~~~

W.~~

~~

lW

~~ ~~

~~

:.

~~

~~

w..-

~~

~~

~~

?:e

~~ ~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~

FIG. 5-Debris Curvature; "The hand of God, leading the wrath of the torrent to minister to the life of
mankind, guides also its grim surges by the laws of their delight; and bridles the bounding rocks, and
appeases the flying foam, till they lie down in the same lines that lead forth the fibres of the down on a
cygnet's breast" ("Modern Painters, " Vol. IV, 1856,[The Works, Vol. 6, opposite p. 345, and pp. 345-46]).

of truth in landscape form-as


mountain landscapes:

where he discussed the inadequacy of Claude's

No mountain was ever raised to the level of perpetual snow, without an infinite
multiplicity of form. Its foundation is built of a hundred minor mountains, and, from

these, great buttressesrun in convergingridges to the central peak. There is no


exceptionto this rule;no mountain15,000 feethighis everraisedwithoutsuchpreparation and variety of outwork. Consequently, in distant effect, when chains of such peaks
are visible at once, the multiplicity of form is absolutely oceanic.47
ASSOCIATION OF FORM IN LANDSCAPE

Association that follows from accurate observation and description of the constituent forms of landscape was the second part of Ruskin's geographical theory. Association was used in two senses, the association of ideal forms observable in distinct
elements and revelatory of God's goodness, and a more general association of
individual elements that produced the unique landscape-a geographical morphology.

Ruskin was fascinated by the apparent occurrence of certain lines and shapes
elemental to one part of the natural world in a quite different part. For example, in an
illustration from volume four of "Modern Painters" Ruskin demonstrated the similarity of form between the wing of a bird and the curvature of a scree slope (Fig. 5). He
47"Modern Painters,"Vol. 1, 1844(The Works,Vol. 3, p. 438).

'4-

.q

r -.

'

. .. .....
*C

A.'~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.

FIG. 6-The
though

there

Vine, Free and in Service; "From the vine-leaves of that archivolt,

is no direct

imitation

of nature

in them,

...

the same

we may yet receive

kind of pleasure which we have in seeing true vine-leaves and wreathed branches
traced upon golden light; . . . I believe the man who designed and the man who
delighted

in that

archivolt

to have

been

wise,

happy,

and

holy"

("The

Stones

Venice," Vol. II, 1853, [The Works, Vol. io, opposite p. ii5, and p. 117])

of

RUSKIN AND GEOGRAPHICAL IMAGINATION

57

demonstrated the truth of these forms through their homology and by associating
them with what they revealed of the mastery of God's handiwork in selecting a
perfection of form for function. Examples of such association were common and
related to the point stressed already by Ruskin in "The Poetry of Architecture," that
man too must follow these forms in his work of transforming, and building in, the
landscape. The superiority claimed by Ruskin for medieval art over Classical and
Renaissance art resulted precisely from this argument. Gothic art and architecture
followed those pure lines and forms because the free builder of the Age of Faith
humbly recognized his duty to follow nature and God (Fig. 6). Classical and Renaissance art was arrogant in its geometry, placing faith in man and his mind rather than
nature and the revelation of God. It was an architecture of slavery.
Association had a second and more geographical sense. Individual elements of the
landscape, first separated out for observation and description, were then synthesized
to derive orders of landscape-"we separate to obtain a more perfect unity."'8 The
unity of each order of landscape came from an understanding of the relationship
between geology, climate, and physical process:
The level marshesand rich meadowsof the tertiary,the roundedswells and short
pasturesof the chalk,the square-builtcliffsand clovendells of the lowerlimestone,the
soaringpeaksand ridgyprecipicesof the primaries,have nothingin commonamong
them,nothingwhichis not distinctiveand incommunicable.
Theirveryatmospheresare
different,theircloudsare different,theirhumoursof storman-dsunshineare different,
their flowers,animals, and forestsare different.By each orderof landscape,and its
orders,I repeat,are infinitein number,correspondingnot only to the severalspeciesof
rock,but to the particularcircumstancesof the rock'sdepositionor aftertreatment,and
to the incalculablevarietiesof climate,aspect,and humaninterference;
by eachorderof
landscape,I say, peculiarlessonsare intendedto be taught.'9
These lessons were the lessons of truth and divine revelation, the harmony of God,
which man must follow.
To summarize Ruskin's theory, landscape is first to be accurately observed and
described in terms of its constituent forms. Each element of its morphology has a
characteristic form that is a reflection of a perfect or ideal form in which is revealed
the goodness and mastery of God, and which is frequently observable in other
elements of the natural world. These distinct forms are then combined in particular
situations of climate, aspect, and human agency to generate orders of landscape.
HUMAN AGENCY IN LANDSCAPE

So far I have concentrated largely on the physical landscape, with only occasional
reference to man and to human agericy. Ruskin's attitude to man's place in nature
has already been mentioned in discussing "The Poetry of Architecture." The subject
was a difficult one for him. Yet he struggled with it and finally emerged with a
concern for society rather than nature-a concern that occupied the second part of his
life. In his discussion of landscape the place of man was ambiguous. At times Ruskin
appeared to reject human agency in the landscape as always destructive, insisting on
"canearnest, faithful and loving study of nature as she is, rejecting with abhorrence all
that man has done to alter and modify her." Yet the concern devoted to architecture
48
49

Preface to the second edition of "Modern Painters", Vol. I, 1844 (The Works, Vol. 3, p. 37).
Ibid. (The Works, Vol. 3, p. 39).

58

THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

and the works of man in adorning the natural world outweighs, in its frequency and in
its urgency, this statement. In the "Seven Lamps of Architecture" Ruskin was explicit
in valuing human occupance for adding to the beauty and harmony of landscape.
When he considered a view over the Ain Valley in the Jura, he attempted "in order
more strictly to arrive at the sources of its impressions" to imagine it as a scene in the
North American wilderness:
The flowers in an instant lost their light, the river its music; the hills became oppressively desolate .... Those ever springing flowers and ever flowing streams had been
dyed by the deep colours of human endurance, valour, and virtue; and the crests of the
sable hills that rose against the evening sky received a deeper worship, because their far
shadows fell eastward over the iron walls of Joux, and the four-square keep of Granson.50

Human endurance, the recognition of man's place in the order of nature as an


aspect of his place in a beneficent creation, was Ruskin's resolution to the problem of
human artifacts in the natural landscape. Harmony between cultural and natural
forms in the landscape would be achieved only by free men who were aware of their
humanity and of God's immanence and who were allowed by their social and political
system to express that truth and love in their art. Man's work harmonized with
nature's if he acted with authenticity.51
Ruskin expressed this idea in what is perhaps his finest piece of large-scale
geographical description.
The charts of the world which have been drawn up by modern science have thrown into
a narrow space the expression of a vast amount of knowledge, but I have never yet seen
any one pictorial enough to enable the spectator to imagine the kind of contrast in
physical character which exists between Northern and Southern countries. We know
the differences in detail, but we have not that broad glance and grasp which would
enable us to feel them in their fulness. We know that gentians grow on the Alps, and
olives on the Appenines; but we do not enough conceive for ourselves that variegated
mosaic of the world's surface which a bird sees in its migration, that difference between
the district of the gentian and of the olive which the stork and the swallow see far off, as
they lean upon the sirocco wind. Let us, for a moment, try to raise ourselves even above
the level of their flight, and imagine the Mediterranean lying beneath us like an
irregular lake, and all its ancient promontories sleeping in the sun: here and there an
angry spot of thunder, a grey stain of storm, moving upon the burning field; and here
and there a fixed wreath of white volcano smoke, surrounded by its circle of ashes; but
for the most part a great peacefulness of light, Syria and Greece, Italy and Spain, laid
like pieces of a golden pavement into the sea-blue, chased, as we stoop nearer to them,
with bossy beaten work of mountain chains, and glowing softly with terraced gardens,
and flowers heavy with frankincense, mixed among masses of laurel, and orange, and
plumy palm, that abate with their grey-green shadows the burning of the marble rocks,
and of the ledges of porphyry sloping under lucent sand. Then let us pass further
towards the north, until we see the orient colours change gradually into a vast belt of
rainy green, where the pastures of Switzerland, and poplar valleys of France, and dark
In volume three of
"0"The Seven Lamps of Architecture," 1849 (The Works, Vol. 8, pp. 223-224).
"Modern Painters" Ruskin displays an almost Shakespearean humanism: "Therefore it is that all the
power of nature depends on subjection to the human soul. Man is the sun of the world; more than the real
sun. The fire of his wonderful heart is the only light and heat worth gauge or measure. Where he is, are the
tropics; where he is not, the ice-world." (The Works, Vol. 5, p. 262).
51 Relph (Place and Placelessness [see footnote 2 above], pp. 78-82) discusses the idea of authenticity
with respect to place.

RUSKIN AND GEOGRAPHICAL

IMAGINATION

59

forests of the Danube and Carpathians stretch from the mouths of the Loire to those of
the Volga, seen through clefts in grey swirls of rain cloud and flaky veils of the mist of
the brooks, spreading low along the pasture lands: and then, farther north still, to see
the earth heave into mighty masses of leaden rock and heathy moor, bordering with a
broad waste of gloomy purple that belt of field and wood, and splintering into irregular
and grisly islands amidst the northern seas, beaten by storm, and chilled by ice drift,
and tormented by furious pulses of contending tide, until the roots of the last forests fail
from among the hill ravines, and the hunger of the north wind bites their peaks into
barrenness; and, at last, the wall of ice, durable like iron, sets, deathlike, its white teeth
against us out of the polar twilight. And, having once traversed in thought this
gradation of the zoned iris of the earth in all its material vastness, let us go down nearer
to it, and watch the parallel change in the belt of animal life; the multitudes of swift and
brilliant creatures that glance in the air and sea, or tread the sands of the southern zone;
striped zebras and spotted leopards, glistening serpents, and birds arrayed in purple
and scarlet. Let us contrast their delicacy and brilliancy of colour, and swiftness of
motion, with the frost-cramped strength, and shaggy covering, and dusky plumage of
the northern tribes; contrast the Arabian horse with the Shetland, the tiger and leopard
with the wolf and bear, the antelope with the elk, the bird of paradise with the osprey;
and then, submissively acknowledging the great laws by which the earth and all that it
bears are ruled throughout their being, let us not condemn, but rejoice in the expression
by man of his own rest in the statutes of the lands that gave him birth. Let us watch him
with reverence as he sets side by side the burning gems, and smooths with soft sculpture
the jasper pillars, that are to reflect a ceaseless sunshine, and rise into a cloudless sky:
but not with less reverence let us stand by him, when, with rough strength and hurried
stroke, he smites an uncouth animation out of the rocks which he has torn from among
the moss of the moorland, and heaves into the darkened air the pile of iron buttress and
rugged wall, instinct with work of an imagination as wild and wayward as the northern
sea; creatures of ungainly shape and rigid limb, but full of wolfish life; fierce as the
winds that beat, and changeful as the clouds that shade them.2
JOHN RUSKIN AND LATER GEOGRAPHICAL

THOUGHT

I am unaware of any specific reference by Ruskin to geography or geographers. He


was primarily interested in landscape as a subject for art and as a medium for moral
uplift and education. A brief comparison, however, of his concepts and methods with
those of Carl Sauer and modern phenomenological geographers reveals a closeness in
spirit and word. Ruskin advocated the rejection of an eclectic approach among artists
who attempted to compose ideal landscapes by imposing ideas on the facts, and he
advised the artist to see the forms of landscape as revealed in nature. Carl Sauer
claimed that geography springs from a naYiveawareness of actual scenes, and that
landscape is the unit concept of geography because of a common curiosity about the
real variations of the earth's surface.53
For both writers the unique is the fountainhead of landscape study, yet neither
wished to remain at the level of pure description. Ruskin studied the unique in order
to see the ideal of which it is a reflection, but without a priori notions as to the nature
of the ideal-"that
generalization then is right, true, and noble, which is based on the
2 "The

Stones of Venice," Vol. II, 1853 (The Works, Vol. io, pp. 185-188).
Sauer, The Morphology of Landscape [see footnote 2 above], p. 316. Donald Davie (Landscape as
Poetic Focus, SouthernRev., New Series, Vol. 4, 1 968, No. 3, pp. 685-691, referenceon p. 688) commends Carl
Sauer's essays as "exceptionally instructive for poets and students of twentieth-century poetry" because
they demonstrate how geography may serve as a poetic focus and as a check upon the poet's manipulation
of the historical record.
53

6o

THE

GEOGRAPHICAL

REVIEW

knowledge of the distinctions and observance of the relations of individual kinds."54


Sauer too rejected a priori theory for landscape and claimed that his morphological
method was "a purely evidential system, without prepossession regarding the meaning of its evidence, and presupposes a minimum of assumption; namely, only the
reality of structural organization,"5 so that "the geographic landscape is a generalization derived from the observation of individual scenes."56The morphologic method
of separating component parts of the structure of landscape, of examining them
individually, and of synthesizing them to produce generic orders of landscape seemed
to be what both writers proposed. It would not be amiss to refer to Ruskin's theory of
landscape as chorology.57
This method demands close attention to the facts of landscape, to its observation
by slow and careful perambulation through it, and to its accurate description. In
discussing the training of a geographer, Sauer echoed a point often repeated by
Ruskin: "There is, I am confident, such a thing as the 'morphologic eye,' a spontaneous and critical attention to form and pattern.... We work at the recognition and
understanding of elements of form and of their relation in function."58It was to the
training and development of the morphologic eye that Ruskin devoted much of his
attention in "Modern Painters."
For both Ruskin and Sauer the key elements of the landscape's morphology were
the same. According to Sauer, the forms of natural landscape produced by "geognostic, climatic, and vegetational factors" operated to form "a unit of organic or quasiorganic quality.... The harmony of climate and landscape, insufficiently developed
by the schools of physiography, has become the keystone of geographic morphology in
the physical sense."59Such a unit corresponds to Ruskin's order of landscape, which
was a function primarily of the same factors. Concept and method were thus the same
for an understanding of the natural landscape.
Man's place and works in the landscape were also significant for both writers, and
neither accepted environmental determinism. Man's work blended into the natural
scene, according to Ruskin, only when he submitted voluntarily to the great laws of
nature because they revealed the divine purpose. That man is free not to do so was
constantly implicit in Ruskin's criticism of discordance between man's artifacts and
Preface to the Second Edition of "Modern Painters," Vol. 1, 1844 (Vol. 3, p. 38).
Satuer, [rhe lorphology of Landscape [see footnote 2 above], p. 327.
'Ibid., p. 322.
" The Oxford English l)ictionary (O.E.D.) defines chorology as "the scientific study of the geographical
extent or limits of anything," suggesting the notion of spatial science. Richard Hartshorne (The Nature of
Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Thought in the Light of the Past [Association of American
Geographers, Lancaster, Pa., ig61i, pp. 78 and 56) followed this meaning when he contrasted 'relationshjps ... based on areal position," or chorology, to "historical sequence," or chronology. However he
earlier referred to Carl Ritter's notion of the "formation of the multiplicity of features into the essential
character of an area" as chorology. This meaning is closer to that given by the O.E.D. for "chorography":
"The art of practice of describing, or delineating on a map or chart, particular regions or districts. " This is
the sense in which chorology has generally been applied in landscape geography and in which it is used
here.
?8 Sauer, The Education of a Geographer [see footnote i8 abovel, pp. 392-393. Rees (op. cit. [see footnote
15 above], pp. 62 and 70) mentions the parallel between Constable and Sauer, claiming that Constable too
possessed the "morphologic eye." George Perkins Marsh, Sir Francis Younghusband, and Sidney William
Wooldridge stressed the importance of seeing to the heart of landscape. George Perkins Marsh: Man and
Nature (edited by 1)avid L,owenthal; Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1965), p. io; Sir Francis
Younghusband: NatuLralBeauty and Geographical Science, Geogr.journ., Vol. 56, 1920, pp. '-13, reference
on p. 8; and Sidney William Wooldridge: Address at the Annual Meeting of the Field Studies Council
(Field StuLdiesCouncil; Retrospect and Prospect, nd., 4 pp.), p. 3.
5 Sauer, The iMorphologyof Landscape [see footnote 2 above], pp. 337, 326, and 336.
5'
5

RUSKIN AND GEOGRAPHICAL IMAGINATION

6i

landscape. Harmony was achieved by free, humble, and authentic experience and
being in the world.60For Carl Sauer the cultural landscape arose from the operations
of culture in the natural landscape: "The culttiral landscape is fashioned from a
natural landscape by a culture group. Culture is the agent, the natural area is the
medium, the cultural landscape the result.""' Sauer was not concerned with the
morality of human agency, but the agency of man in landscape transformation was a
major theme in Sauer as well as in Ruskin. The moral question raised by Ruskin,
however, is one that has recently been taken up by geographical writers.
If Ruskin and Sauer came to a strikingly similar position concerning concept and
method in landscape study, we might argue that either Sauer was reducing geography
to little more than literary landscape art, or that Ruskin was reducing landscape art
to topographical draftsmanship. Both approaches have indeed been so attacked by
other writers in their respective disciplines,62but such a claim, I believe, is inaccurate.
Sauer's geography is scientific; it aims to describe and explain human agency in
producing the unity and harmony of which we are all naTvelyaware. It recognises the
limits of science, however, and claims that an aspect of the essence of landscape lies
beyond the grasp of scientific method.63 Geographers contemporary with Sauer,
notably Vaughan Cornish in England and Ewald Banse in Germany, attempted to
develop a geography aimed directly at this dimension of landscape.64 Ruskin's aim
was moral and artistic, yet he recognized that such an approach would veer into a
dangerous idealism without the rigor of scientific observation.
The moral imperative that Ruskin saw in landscape was expressed in the Evangelical terms of a particular form of Christianity. But this imperative has a more
universal significance that geographers have increasingly touched upon in the past
few years. Yi-Fu Tuan has stressed the value of "topophilia, " that sense of unity with
the beauty and transcendental power of landscape."6Relph has taken the argument
further: place is a profound human experience that can only be fully realized by a
wholehearted commitment to and caring for our world. To be in place, at one with the
landscape, is basic to our ordering of experience in the world. Human agency in
building landscapes out of nature creates "a place made visible, tangible, and
sensible." In order to create and maintain harmonious and significant places and
landscapes man must act with "authenticity," that is, "a complete awareness and
acceptance of responsibility for your own existence."66
60?"The Stones of Venice," Vol. II, 1853 (The Works, Vol. io, pp. 190
61 Sauer, The Morphology of Landscape [see footnote 2 above], p. 343.

ff).

62 Richard Hartshorne's discussion of "landscape" as a concept in geography, focusing to some extent


on Sauer, makes this criticism. Hartshorne, op. cit. [see footnote 57 above], pp. 149-174. Walton (op. cit.,
[see footnote 21 above]) refuted the suggestion that Ruskin was merely a draftsman.
e "A good deal of the meaning of area lies beyond scientific regimentation. The best geography has
never disregarded the esthetic qualities of landscape, to which we know no approach other than the
subjective.... Having observed widely and charted diligently, there yet remains a quality of understanding
at a higher plane that may not be reduced to formal process." Sauer, The Morphology of Landscape [see
footnote 2 above], pp. 344-34564 Vaughan Cornish: Harmonies of Scenery: An Outline of Aesthetic Geography, Geography,
Vol. 14,
1928, pp. 275-283 and 382-394. See also Andrew Goudie: Vaughan Cornish: Geographer (with a bibliography of his published works), Trans. Inst. Br. Geogr.,No. 55. 1972, pp. I-i6. Ewald Banse's aesthetic
geography, developed in the 1920'S, is discussed in Eric Fischer, Robert D. Campbell, and Eldon S. Miller:
A Question of Place: The Development of Geographical Thought (Dept. of Geography, The George Washington Univ., Washington, D.C., 1969), pp. 167-174.
66 Yi-Fu Tuan: Topophilia, or Sudden Encounter with the Landscape, Landscape,
Vol. 1l, 1961,pp. 2932; and Tuan, Topophilia [see footnote i above].
66 Relph, Place and Placelessness [see footnote 2 above], pp. 23 and 78. On p. 63 Relph quoted Ruskin in
support of his argument on authenticity.

62

THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

Relph sees two of the purposes of a phenomenological geography as being to reveal


the nature of the place experience and to wage a conscious battle against inauthenticity of place and the "forces of placelessness," that result fromnan inauthentic
mode of human experience. "What is required is an approach and attendant set of
concepts that respond to the unity of 'place, person, and act' and stress the links
rather than the division between specific and general features of places."67
Such an approach and set of concepts are found in Ruskin's landscape geography.
His concern was precisely with man's truth to himself and to God's revelation in
nature. His approach was phenomenological, but it was adopted before that word
was coined and the philosophical position laid out by German thinkers. His imagination was geographical, but his concern was for man and the nature of man's true
existence. In many ways Ruskin went beyond the position of modern geographical
phenomenologists. During the second part of his career when he turned from landscape, architecture, and art to the study of political economy, he attempted to develop
a clearer understanding of the relationship, implied in "The Poetry of Architecture,"
between social structure and the limits that it imposed on men's freedom to find and
express truth. Authenticity depends on both individual committment and the nature
of the social order. This is perhaps Ruskin's most important message, and we
geographers would do well to examine the later work of John Ruskin, as well as his
landscape study, if we are to relate the truth of what phenomenology has shown us of
our need for significant places with what radical geographers have, through examination of the spatial implications of the prevailing social relations of production,
demonstrated about our ability to create such places.
67 Ihid., p - 44.