Some quotes from Ruckstull

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Some quotes from Ruckstull

From Juan Carlos Martinez

Published before 2005


Dear Goodart,

Have any of you heard of R. W. Ruckstull? He wrote a book entitled Great Works of Art and What makes them Great in 1925 of which I have borrowed a copy. It's quite hilarious, really. Ruckstull himself was a rather excellent American sculptor who clearly had serious bones to pick with "modern" art.

The entire book is a running diatribe against modernism. It makes Gammell's book appear positively tolerant. I found myself chuckling at every page I turned to (I haven't read the whole thing). There isn't a single iota of political correctness in it, either. In fact, some of the things he says are downright racist. Although I recognize he was a product of a certain time and place and thus didn't feel that saying things like "Why, any Savage living in our West could paint better pictures than ..." was a particularly offensive turn of phrase.

Anyway, let me share a couple of quotes with you:

These are all from one or two pages of reproductions of various modernist works.

(Note: Mr. Ruckstull seems also to have had some strongly-held views based on the then burgeoning science of psychiatry -- you'll see what I mean.)

On Cezanne's Temptation of St. Anthony he says: "Many representations of this subject have been made in the last few centuries, but none so insane in thought or as childish in artistry."

On Cezenne's Landscape in Province: "An example of symbolic sadistic mutilation of nature in landscape painting."

On Gaugin's Hina-Tefatan he says, "A work proving the vulgarity and insanity of its author."

On Matisse's Portrait: "A charlatan specimen of 'deformation of the form'."

On Matisse's Portrait sculpture: "A charlatan 'deformation of the form' worthy only of a maniac suffering from symbolic sadism."

On an untitled Picasso abstraction of 'significant form', Ruckstull says: "An example of lecherous symbolism full of meaning for the initiates of the cult of symbolic sadism in art, and fundamentally insane."

On an abstract sculpture by Herzog, he states simply: "Points direct to the insane asylum."

Of course, he counter-points these kinds of statements with reviews of great works throughout time. For example, he uses Bouguereau on at least one occasion. On WB's Cupid Captive he says: "An example of such perfect and exact drawing that one does not even think of it as drawing. A great work of art, by a much-maligned but great artist."

Anyway, I thought that those of you who are not insane initiates of symbolic sadism might enjoy some of these comments. I'll try to get through the entire book shortly.

All the best.

Juan