Summary of Review by Elizabeth Eastlake, Modern Painters I, II, III, Academy Notes 1855, Quarterly Review, March 1856

In this review, prompted by the publication of Modern Painters III, Elizabeth Eastlake follows Margaret Oliphant in Blackwood's Magazine, December 1855, in attempting to undermine Ruskin 's authority as a critic by maintaining that his success rests on the susceptibility of his popular audience to his arguments (see here). Writing as a friend of Ruskin's wife, Euphemia (nee Gray) Ruskin, the numerous references to physical dysfunctions (see here) (see here) may be interpreted as veiled allusions to the reasons for their failed marriage. An underlying fear of idolatry (see here) underpins the attempt to dissociate art from religion (see here), while there is also a reluctance to see art as a social or political index (see here). Characterising Ruskin's art criticism as unhealthy (see here), Eastlake argues against the equivalence of painting and poetry (see here), and quotes from the preface to the second edition of Modern Painters I (1844) to illustrate her point (see here).

The hostility of this review prompted William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones to come to Ruskin's defence in the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, June 1856, while George Richmond (1809-1896) answered the combined attack of the Quarterly Review and the Edinburgh Review in the National Review, July 1856. Other reviews sympathetic to Ruskin included the British Quarterly Review, April 1856, the Westminster Review, April 1856, the American Putnam's Monthly Magazine, May 1856, the Eclectic Review, June 1856, and Fraser's Magazine, June 1856. Many of these periodicals were those representing the interests of religious dissent.