In 1877 the art critic John Ruskin damned James McNeil Whistler’s magnificent Nocturne in Black and Gold by saying he “had never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” Whistler sued, and wrote afterward:
Over and over again did the Attorney General cry out aloud, in the agony of his cause, “What is to become of painting if the critics withhold their lash?”
As well might he ask what is to become of mathematics under similar circumstances, were they possible. I maintain that two and two the mathematician would continue to make four, in spite of the whine of the amateur for three, or the cry of the critic for five… It suffices not, Messieurs! a life passed among pictures makes not a painter – else the policeman in the National Gallery might assert himself. As well allege that he who lives in a library must needs die a poet. Let not Mr. Ruskin flatter himself that more education makes the difference between himself and the policeman when both stand gazing in the gallery.
- Whistler, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies