“…accurately speaking, no good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art.
“This for two reasons….The first, that no great man ever stops working till he has reached his point of failure; that is to say, his mind is always far in advance of his powers of execution, and the latter will now and then give way in trying to follow it; besides that, he will always give to the inferior portions of his work only such inferior attention as they require; and according to his greatness he becomes so accustomed to the feeling of dissatisfaction with the best he can do, that in moments of lassitude or anger with himself he will not care though the beholder be dissatisfied also…..
“The second reason is, that imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress and change…..All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the[ir] imperfections…..
“Accept this then for a universal law, that neither architecture nor any other noble work of man can be good unless it be imperfect; and let us be prepared for the otherwise strange fact, which we shall discern clearly as we approach the period of the Renaissance, that the first cause of the fall of the arts of Europe was a relentless requirement of perfection…….”
from The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin, nineteenth-century art critic
Ruskin was a famous defender of Gothic art, the one which preceded Renaissance art in Europe. To him, the great cathedrals, with all their surprising irregularities, their strangeness, their savageness, as he called it, were closer to the ideal of beautiful—or rather of artistic truth. Renaissance art critics like Vasari, and most critics in Ruskin’s own time, despised Gothic art, considering it childish, disorganized, crude.