Analysing Giotto di Bondone’s series of biblical paintings in Padua’s Arena, historian John Ruskin wrote this report for the Arundel Society. Ruskin also provides a history of Arena Chapel itself, providing information on who built it and why. He then gives a small but comprehensive biography on Giotto himself. Plus, he provides incredible insight on how painters worked with materials and colors compared to painters of other eras such as the Byzantine. While doing that, he promotes the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and why people should remember Giotto’s era besides the Renaissance.
However, I do feel that Ruskin glosses over this era. He longs for an innocence he finds in this era before any establishment of rules in art. One wonders how much he overlooks any problems found during the proto-Renaissance era. Every now and then, he rails against modern art for having no substance and how artists should know their true place. For Ruskin, Giotto represented a truly moral artist who did not challenge anyone. He lived off patrons, and he never went beyond that.
What happens when you let critics take over art movements.
While Ruskin admires Giotto, he will not hold back what he thought the artist lacked in skill. As the historian goes through all the paintings found in the Arena Chapel, Ruskin records his analysis and their quality. Since Giotto dedicated each panel to moments the family of Mary and the life of Christ, Ruskin provides examples from biblical tomes. By the way, if you download a public domain version of this on Kindle, highly unlikely you will find reproductions of the Arena Chapel. Near the conclusion, Ruskin then goes on a diatribe that I could not follow. I did not know what it had to do with anything in the book, and I cannot give any summary.
The book itself makes for a fun and insightful read, but the ending goes all over the place.
ETA: Added a word.