An Art Critic’s Near-Obsessive Love for J.M.W. Turner

For some, the name Joseph Mallord William Turner automatically invokes critic John Ruskin as well. Often associated with his affinity for Turner, Ruskin was unambiguous in his belief in the artist’s ability: “We have had, living with us, and painting for us, the greatest painter of all time,” said Ruskin, “a man with whose supremacy of power no intellect of past ages can be put in comparison for a moment.” In 1833, at the age of 13, Ruskin was given a copy of a poem called Italy, by Samuel Rogers, which was accompanied by Turner-crafted engravings. Thus began a lifetime of aesthetic ardor, in which Ruskin critiqued and purchased Turner’s work, and befriended the artist. Indeed, by the time of Turner’s death in 1851, their relationship was so close that Ruskin was made the executor of his idol’s will. Even Turner, however, was skeptical of Ruskin’s extreme, near-obsessive love of his work, saying that the critic perceived “more in my pictures than I ever painted.”