John Ruskin, on truth in art

that we have dismissed, often indeed forgotten, the great voices of our culture,
the great oracles, the dead, they’ve dared to call them, painters, composers,
poets, doesn’t make their pronouncements less true, less inspiring, proof that
they are still very much alive, and relevant 
that they are still relevant ties us to the great notion that we are from very
Homer to the present day one family, one illustrious family, which to disregard, 
or any of its great giants, would be our inestimable loss 
where would we be without their wisdom, leaves without a trunk
John Ruskin was a great influence on Marcel Proust, my own supreme poet and prophet, I needed to plumb his literary pockets for, I did not doubt, nuggets of priceless gold


Chapter 7
8 – That then which I would have the reader inquire respecting
       every work of art of undetermined merit submitted to his
       judgment, is not whether it be a work of especial grandeur,
       importance, or power; but whether it have any virtue or
       substance as a link in this chain of truth; whether it have 
       recorded or interpreted anything before unknown; whether
       it have added one single stone to our heaven pointing pyramid,
       cut away one dark bough, or levelled one rugged hillock in our
       path. This, if it be an honest work of art, it must have done, for
       no man ever yet worked honestly without giving some such help
       to his race. God appoints to every one of his creatures a separate
       mission, and if they discharge it honourably, if they acquit themselves
       like men and faithfully follow that light which is in them, withdrawing
       from it all cold and quenching influence, there will assuredly come of
       it such burning as, in its appointed mode and measure, shall shine
       before men, and be of service constant and holy. Degrees infinite
       of lustre there must always be, but the weakest among us has a
       gift, however seemingly trivial, which is peculiar to him, and which
       worthily used will be a gift also to his race for  ever: 
                ‘Fool not’, says George Herbert,
                                                                     ‘For all may have,
                             If they dare choose, a glorious life or grave’ 
                                            John Ruskin (from “Modern Painters“)