Ruskin and Eagles

Following the critical attack on Turner in Blackwood's Magazine, October 1836, in which the critic, John Eagles, threatened to 'wage perpetual warfare' against the 'the false English School of Art', Ruskin responded by writing a letter to Blackwood's Magazine in Turner 's defence, but which, on the advice of Turner, was never sent ( Works, 3.635). Eagles continued to attack Turner's painting in his reviews of the Royal Academy Exhibitions, basing his criticism on the aesthetic theories of Reynolds's Discourses. Like his fellow critic, George Darley of the Athenaeum, Eagles interprets Ruskin's insistence on the importance of detail in Modern Painters I as the encouragement of unimaginative realism (see Blackwood's Magazine, October 1843). In the dialogue which develops between Ruskin and Eagles, both parties engage in a rhetorical strategy which involves the interpretation (or misinterpretation) of Reynolds for their own ends, the dispute between Ruskin and the critics centring on the theory of abstraction.

Eagles mounted a further attack on Ruskin and his aesthetics in an article entitled 'The Fine Arts and the Public Taste' published by Blackwood's Magazine, July 1853, extending his target to include John Millais in particular and the Pre-Raphaelites in general. Ruskin knew the identity of his Blackwood's opponent ( Works, 3.xliv).