The Art of Travel

A 19th-century British thinker and critic famous for the drawing classes he offered to English commoners. During his privileged childhood, Ruskin’s parents cultivated his interest in art, but he believed that people of all social classes should learn to draw—not in order to become artists, but rather in order to learn how to truly see the world around them. He believed that, to truly possess the beauty one sees, one must come to understand what makes something beautiful. He argued that drawing and word-painting, unlike photography, made that understanding possible by forcing people to notice the details that compose larger wholes and pay sustained attention to the world around them. After reading Ruskin, Alain de Botton takes up drawing and word painting in his eighth essay.

John Ruskin Quotes in The Art of Travel

The The Art of Travel quotes below are all either spoken by John Ruskin or refer to John Ruskin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Art of Travel published in 2002.
Chapter 8 Quotes

A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is to wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give it weight in one’s life. There is an urge to say, “I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.”

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), William Wordsworth, John Ruskin
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
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The camera blurs the distinction between looking and noticing, between seeing and possessing; it may give us the option of true knowledge, but it may also unwittingly make the effort of acquiring that knowledge seem superfluous. It suggests that we have done all the work simply by taking a photograph, whereas proper eating of a place—a woodland, for example—requires that we pose ourselves a series of questions such as “How do the stems connect to the roots?” “Where is the mist coming from?” “Why does one tree seem darker than another?” These questions are implicitly asked and answered in the process of sketching.

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), John Ruskin
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I believe that the sight is a more important thing than the drawing; and I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love nature, than teach the looking at nature that they may learn to draw.”

Related Characters: John Ruskin (speaker)
Page Number: 233
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Chapter 9 Quotes

The reason people were not looking was that they had never done so before. They had fallen into the habit of considering their universe to be boring—and their universe had duly fallen into line with their expectations.

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Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), John Ruskin
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:
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John Ruskin Character Timeline in The Art of Travel

The timeline below shows where the character John Ruskin appears in The Art of Travel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8: On Possessing Beauty
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
John Ruskin, born in 1819 in London, focused largely on this question of how to possess places’... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
Ruskin’s preoccupation from 1856 until 1860 was teaching drawing, which he found more important (and more... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Ruskin believed drawing was productive for people regardless of their talent because it taught them “to... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Ruskin shouted down a group of Manchester industrialists in 1864, accusing their railroads of trying to... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Ruskin saw drawing as the outgrowth of a human instinct—like eating and drinking, it was based... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Following Ruskin, de Botton decides to try drawing. He tries to draw the window of his bedroom... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Ruskin summarized his mission as an attempt to “direct people’s attention accurately to the beauty of... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
Ruskin wanted people to not only draw but also “word-paint.” De Botton notes that people often... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Ruskin’s word-paintings were about places’ psychological effects as much as their aesthetic qualities. He personified clouds,... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
De Botton concludes that, despite his word-paintings’ middling quality, he nevertheless pursued Ruskin’s two goals for art: “to make sense of pain and to fathom the sources of... (full context)