Samuel Prout (1783-1852) was a friend and neighbour of Ruskin at Denmark Hill. At Works, 14.392 [n/a] Ruskin summarises his view of Prout:
Prout is not a colourist, nor in any extended or complete sense of the word a painter. He is essentially a draughtsman with the lead pencil, as Dürer was essentially a draughtsman with the burin, and Bewick on the woodblock. And the chief art-virtue of the pieces here exhibited is the intellectual abstraction which represents many features of things with few lines
Ruskin uses the forms ‘Proutish’, Proutishness’ and ‘Proutian’ in his notebooks. At Notebook M2 p.178 in Bourges Cathedral at the end of his trip Ruskin uses Prout to illustrate the features of Lombard work, which had been defined for him by what he had seen at S. Ambrogio in Milan and S. Michele in Pavia, and which he is comparing with the porches of Bourges. Bourges porches provide ‘a perfect study for their elaborate failure...Everything is overcrowded and misplaced - joyless and valueless:
I have a hundred times noted the Proutism of Lombard work[.] Proutism to my idea consists in broad masses of shade amid light, the latter decorated with rich linear ornament[.] This is the entire spirit of Italian design. The Northern work at Bourges and I think characteristically elsewhere depends on crowded and compared points of shade and so wearies the eye: The Byzantine or Lombard never lose the mass - however beautifully they undercut - or however deep their points of shade; and their surface chasing, as well as that of the Romans, as on arch at l’Orange is lovely; It is most curious to see the entire absence of all surface chasing from the dresses of the figures on the western porches here, and the breadth and simplicity of the folds: In the Romanesque porches however - more especially the southern one, there is a mixture of the two manners, rich folds, and surface chasing in abundance, with quantities of undercutting...
and Notebook M2 p.179L:
The more I think of these porches, the more I am struck with the admirable system of ornamentation in St Ambrogio and St Michele; so quiet - masterly and manly in its lines[;] every touch telling and not a touch too much - while these vain struggles at effect are like Hans, our old needle and pin colonist - compared to Prout, all dot and spot and twit and double line and deep exaggerated shade.
See Notebook M p.166, where Ruskin refers to the Proutish ornament of the surface of the carving of the head of Noah, Notebook M2 p.100 on the Proutian carving of leafage of the capitals of the Ducal Palace, Notebook M2 p.150 for a comparison between the work of Prout and the reliefs of the Roman Arch at Orange, Notebook M2 p.178 for later reflections on the arch and ‘Proutism’, and Works, 9.299 for the use made of the note at Notebook M2 p.150.
[Version 0.05: May 2008]