J. M. W. Turner. The decline of the Carthaginian empire. 1817. Google images
¨The interest of a landscape consists wholly in its relation either to figures present—or to figures past—or to human powers conceived. The most splendid drawing of the chain of the Alps, irrespective of their relation to humanity, is no more a true landscape than a painting of this bit of stone. For, as natural philosophers, there is no bigness or littleness to you. This stone is just as interesting to you, or ought to be—as if it was a million times as big. There is no more sublimity —per se—in ground sloped at an angle of forty-five, than in ground level; nor in a perpendicular fracture of a rock, than in a horizontal one. The only thing that makes the one more interesting to you in a landscape than the other, is that you could tumble over the perpendicular fracture—and couldn't tumble over the other. A cloud, looked at as a cloud only, is no more a subject for painting than so much feculence in dirty water. It is merely dirty air, or at best a chemical solution ill made. That it is worthy of being painted at all depends upon its being the means of nourishment and chastisement to men, or the dwelling place of imaginary gods. There's a bit of blue sky and cloud by Turner—one of the loveliest ever painted by human hand. But, as a mere pattern of blue and white, he had better have painted a jay's wing: this was only painted by him—and is, in reality, only pleasant to you—because it signifies the coming of a gleam of sweet sunshine in windy weather; and the wind is worth thinking of only because it fills the sails of ships, and the sun because it warms the sailors. (....) Only natural phenomena in their direct relation to humanity—these are to be your subjects in landscape. Rocks and water and air may no more be painted for their own sakes, than the armor carved without the warrior.¨
J.M.W. Turner. Modern Rome. Campo Vaccino. Google images
John Ruskin. Lectures on Landscape.
These Lectures on Landscape were given at Oxford on January 20, February 9, and February 23, 1871