John Ruskin

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John Ruskin

Coloured engraving of Ruskin
Born 8 February 1819(1819-02-08)
54 Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, London, England
Died 20 January 1900(1900-01-20) (aged 80)
Brantwood, Coniston, England
Occupation Writer, art critic, draughtsman, watercolourist, social thinker, philanthropist
Citizenship English
Alma mater Christ Church, University of Oxford
Period Victorian era
Notable work(s) Modern Painters 5 vols. (1843–60), The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849), The Stones of Venice 3 vols. (1851-53), Unto This Last (1860, 1862), Fors Clavigera (1871–84), Praeterita 3 vols. (1885–89).
Spouse(s) Euphemia Chalmers Gray (1828–1897) (marriage annulled)

John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also a draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects ranging from geology to architecture, myth to ornithology, literature to education, and botany to political economy. His writing style and form was equally varied. Ruskin penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, letters and even a fairy tale. In all of his writing, he emphasised the connections between nature, art and society. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation.

He was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation has steadily improved since the 1960s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognised as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft.

Ruskin first came to widespread attention with the first volume of Modern Painters (1843), an extended essay in defence of the work of J. M. W. Turner in which he argued that the principal role of the artist is "truth to nature". From the 1850s he championed the Pre-Raphaelites who were influenced by his ideas. His work increasingly focused on social and political issues. Unto This Last (1860, 1862) marked the shift in emphasis. In 1869, Ruskin became the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford, where he established the Ruskin School of Drawing. In 1871, he began his monthly "letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Britain", published under the title Fors Clavigera (1871–1884). In the course of this complex and deeply personal work, he developed the principles underlying his ideal society. As a result, he founded the Guild of St George, an organisation that endures today.


[edit] Early life

[edit] Genealogy

Ruskin was the only child of first cousins. His father, John James Ruskin (1785–1864), was a sherry and wine importer, a founding partner and effectively head of Ruskin, Telford and Domecq (see Allied Domecq). His mother, Margaret Cox, née Cock (1781–1871), was the daughter of a publican in Croydon. The Ruskins were English, but John James was brought up in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Margaret joined the household when she became companion to John James Ruskin’s mother, Catherine (Margaret’s aunt).

John James had hoped to practice law, but was instead articled as a clerk in London. His father, John Thomas Ruskin, a grocer, was an inadequate businessman. To save the family from bankruptcy, John James, whose prudence and success were in stark contrast to his father, took on all debts, settling the last of them in 1832. John James and Margaret were engaged in 1809, but opposition to the union from John Thomas, and the issue of the debt, delayed their wedding which was finally conducted without celebration in 1818.

[edit] Childhood and education

Ruskin as a young child, painted by James Northcote.

Ruskin was born at 54 Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, London (demolished 1969), just south of modern-day St Pancras railway station. His childhood was characterised by the contrasting influences of his father and mother. John James Ruskin helped to develop his son’s Romanticism as they shared a passion for the works of Byron, Shakespeare and especially Walter Scott. He visited Scott's home, Abbotsford in 1838, but was disappointed by its appearance. Margaret Ruskin, an Evangelical Christian, more cautious and restrained than her husband, taught young John to read the King James Bible from beginning to end, and then to start all over again, committing large portions to memory. Its language, imagery and stories had a profound and lasting effect on his writing.

Ruskin’s childhood was spent from 1823 at 28 Herne Hill (demolished c. 1912), Herne Hill, near the then village of Camberwell in South London. It was not, however, the friendless and toyless experience that he later claimed in his autobiography, Praeterita (1885–89). He was educated at home by his parents and private tutors, and from 1834-35 he attended the school in Peckham run by the progressive Evangelical, Thomas Dale. Ruskin also heard Dale lecture in 1836 at King's College London, where he was the first professor of English Literature.

[edit] Travel

Ruskin was greatly influenced by the extensive and privileged travels he enjoyed in his childhood. It helped to establish his taste and augmented his education. His father visited business clients in the country houses, exposing the young John to English landscapes, architecture and paintings. Tours took them to the Lake District (his first long poem, Iteriad, was an account of his 1830 tour) and to relations in Perth, Scotland. As early as 1825, the family visited France and Belgium. Their continental tours became increasingly ambitious in scope, so that in 1833 they visited Strasbourg, Shaffhausen, Milan, Genoa and Turin. He developed his life-long love of the Alps, and in 1835 he first visited Venice, that “Paradise of cities” that formed both the symbol in and the subject of much of his later work.[1]

The tours provided Ruskin with the opportunity to observe, and to record his observations. He composed elegant if largely conventional poetry, some of which was published in Friendship’s Offering. His early notebooks and sketchbooks are full of his visually sophisticated and technically accomplished drawings of maps, landscapes and buildings, remarkable for a boy of his age. He was profoundly affected by Samuel Rogers’s poem, Italy (1830), a copy of which was given to him as a 13th birthday present. In particular, he admired deeply the accompanying illustrations by Samuel Prout and J. M. W. Turner, and much of his art in the 1830s was in imitation of them. His artistic skills were refined under the tutelage of Charles Runciman, Copley Fielding and James Duffield Harding. Gradually, he abandoned his picturesque style in favour of naturalism.

[edit] First publications

His journeys also provided inspiration for his writing. Ruskin’s first publication was his poem about Derwentwater published in the Spiritual Times (August 1829). In 1834 three articles for Loudon's Magazine of Natural History were published. They show early signs of his skill as a close “scientific” observer of nature, especially its geology and botany.

From September 1837 to December 1838, Ruskin’s The Poetry of Architecture was serialised in Loudon's Architectural Magazine, under the pen name "Kata Phusin" (Greek for "According to Nature"). This was a study of cottages, villas, and other dwellings which centred on a Wordsworthian argument that buildings should be sympathetic to their immediate environment and use local materials. It anticipated key themes in his later writings on the subject. In 1839, Ruskin’s ‘Remarks on the Present State of Meteorological Science’ was published in Transactions of the Meteorological Society.

[edit] Oxford

In Michaelmas 1836, Ruskin matriculated at the University of Oxford, taking up residence at Christ Church in January of the following year. Enrolled as a "gentleman-commoner", he enjoyed equal status with his aristocratic peers. His study of classical “Greats” might, his parents hoped, lead him to take Holy Orders and become a bishop. Ruskin was generally uninspired by Oxford, however, and he suffered bouts of illness. Perhaps the keenest advantage to him of his time at Oxford was found in the few, close friendships he made there. His tutor, Rev. William Lucas Brown, was always encouraging, as was a young senior tutor, Henry Liddell and a private tutor, Rev. Osborne Gordon. He also became close to the geologist and natural theologian, William Buckland. Among Ruskin’s fellow undergraduates, the most important friends were Charles Thomas Newton and Henry Acland.

His biggest success came in 1839 when at the third attempt he won the prestigious Newdigate Prize for poetry (Arthur Hugh Clough came second). He met William Wordsworth, who was receiving an honorary degree, at the ceremony. But Ruskin never achieved independence at Oxford. His mother lodged on the nearby High Street, where his father joined them at weekends. His health was poor, and he was devastated to hear that his first love, Adèle Domecq, the eldest daughter of his father’s business partner, was engaged to a French nobleman. In the midst of exam revision, in April 1840, he coughed blood, raising fears of consumption, and leading to a long break from Oxford.

Before he returned, he answered a challenge set down by the young Effie Gray, whom he would later marry. During a six week break at Leamington Spa to undergo Dr. Jephson’s celebrated salt-water cure, Ruskin wrote his only work of fiction, the fairy tale, The King of the Golden River (published in 1850 with illustrations by Richard Doyle). A work of Christian sacrificial morality and charity, it is set in the Alpine landscape Ruskin loved and knew so well. It remains the most translated of all his works. At Oxford, he eventually sat for a pass degree in 1842, and was awarded with an uncommon honorary double fourth-class degree in recognition of his achievements.

[edit] Modern Painters I (1843)

Much of the period, from late 1840 to autumn 1842, Ruskin spent abroad with his parents, principally in Italy. Ruskin’s studies of Italian art were chiefly guided by George Richmond, to whom the Ruskins were introduced by Joseph Severn, the friend of Keats. But he was galvanised into writing a defence of J. M. W. Turner when he read an attack on several of his pictures exhibited at the Royal Academy. It recalled an attack by the critic, Rev. John Eagles, in Blackwood's Magazine in 1836, which had prompted Ruskin to write a long essay. John James had sent the piece to Turner who did not wish it to be published. It finally appeared in 1903.

In the intervening years, and with his son’s often overly ambitious pleadings for more, John James Ruskin had begun collecting watercolours, including works by Samuel Prout and, from 1839, Turner himself. Both were among occasional guests of the Ruskins at Herne Hill, and 163 Denmark Hill (demolished 1947) to which the family removed in 1842.

What became the first volume of Modern Painters (1843), published by Smith, Elder & Co. under the anonymous authority, "A Graduate of Oxford," was Ruskin’s response to Turner’s critics. Ruskin controversially argued that modern landscape painters—and in particular Turner—were superior to the so-called "Old Masters" of the post-Renaissance period. Ruskin maintained that Old Masters such as Gaspard Dughet (Gaspar Poussin), Claude Lorrain, and Salvator Rosa, unlike Turner, favoured pictorial convention, and not “truth to nature”. He explained that he meant “moral as well as material truth”.[2] The job of the artist is to observe the reality of nature and not to invent it in a studio—to render what he has seen and understood imaginatively on canvas, free of any rules of composition. For Ruskin, modern landscapists demonstrated a superior understanding of the “truths” of water, air, clouds, stones, and vegetation, a profound appreciation of which Ruskin demonstrated in his own prose. He described works he had seen at the National Gallery and Dulwich Picture Gallery with extraordinary verbal felicity.

Although critics were slow to react, and reviews were mixed, many notable literary and artistic figures were impressed with the young man’s work, among them Charlotte Brontë and Walt Whitman. Suddenly Ruskin had found his métier, and in one leap he helped to redefine the genre of art criticism, mixing a discourse of polemic with aesthetics and scientific observation, aesthetics and ethics. It also cemented Ruskin’s relationship with Turner. When the artist died in 1851, Ruskin was the executor responsible for the 19,000 sketches Turner gifted to the British nation.

[edit] 1845 tour and Modern Painters II (1846)

Ruskin toured the continent again with his parents in 1844, visiting Chamonix and Paris, studying the geology of the Alps and the paintings of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Perugino at the Louvre. In 1845, at the age of 26, he undertook to travel without his parents for the first time. It provided him with an opportunity to study medieval art and architecture in France, Switzerland and especially Italy. In Lucca he saw the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia which Ruskin considered perfect Christian sculpture (he would later come to associate it with the object of his love, Rose La Touche). He drew inspiration from what he saw at the Campo Santo in Pisa, and in Florence. He was particularly impressed by the works of Fra Angelico and Giotto in San Marco, and Tintoretto in the Scuola di San Rocco. But he was alarmed by the combined effects of modernisation and decay on Venice: "Venice is lost to me," he wrote.[3] It crystallised Ruskin’s life-long conviction that to restore was to destroy, and that the only true course was preservation and conservation.

Drawing on these travels, he wrote the second volume of Modern Painters (published April 1846) The volume concentrated more on Renaissance and pre-Renaissance artists than on Turner. It was also a more theoretical work than its predecessor. Ruskin explicitly linked the aesthetic and the divine, arguing that truth, beauty and religion are inextricably bound together: “the Beautiful as a gift of God”.[4] (For more, see Definitions, ‘Theoria’ below). In defining categories of beauty and imagination, Ruskin was arguing that all great artists must perceive beauty and, with their imagination, to communicate it creatively through symbols. Generally, critics gave a warmer reception to this second volume, although many still found the attack on the aesthetic orthodoxy associated with Sir Joshua Reynolds difficult to take. In the summer, Ruskin was abroad again with his father who still hoped his son might become a poet, just one factor in some distance developing between them.

[edit] Middle life

Effie Gray painted by Thomas Richmond. She thought the portrait made her look like "a graceful Doll".[5]

[edit] Marriage to Effie Gray

In 1848, he married Effie Gray, for whom he wrote the fairy tale, The King of the Golden River. Their marriage was notoriously unhappy, eventually being annulled in 1854 on grounds of his "incurable impotency,"[6] a charge Ruskin later disputed, even going so far as to offer to prove his virility at the court's request.[7] In court, the Ruskin family counter-attacked Effie as being mentally unbalanced. Effie later married the artist John Everett Millais, who had been Ruskin's protégé, in July 1855, and bore eight children.

[edit] Architecture

In 1849, Ruskin turned to architecture, writing The Seven Lamps of Architecture and The Stones of Venice, both of which argued that architecture cannot be separated from morality, and that the "Decorated Gothic" style was the highest form of architecture yet achieved.[8] By this time, he was writing in his own name and had become the most famous cultural theorist of his day.

[edit] Pre-Raphaelite painters

John Ruskin painted by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais at Glenfinlas, Scotland, (1853–54).[9]

Ruskin came into contact with Millais following the controversy over Millais's painting Christ in the House of His Parents, which was considered blasphemous at the time. Millais, with his colleagues William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, had established the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. The Pre-Raphaelites were influenced by Ruskin's theories. As a result, the critic wrote letters to The Times defending their work, later meeting them. Initially, he favoured Millais, who travelled to Scotland with Ruskin and Effie to paint Ruskin's portrait. Effie's increasing attachment to Millais, among other reasons (including Ruskin's non-consummation of the marriage[10]) created a crisis, leading Effie to leave Ruskin, which caused a public scandal. Millais abandoned the Pre-Raphaelite style after his marriage, and Ruskin often savagely attacked his later works. Ruskin continued to support Hunt and Rossetti. He also provided independent funds to encourage the art of Rossetti's wife Elizabeth Siddal. Other artists influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites also received both written and financial support from him, including John Brett, Burne-Jones and John William Inchbold. In 1858 he also opened the School of Art in Sidney Street, Cambridge, laying the foundation for what is now Anglia Ruskin University.

During this period Ruskin wrote regular reviews of the annual exhibitions at the Royal Academy under the title Academy Notes. His reviews were so influential and so judgmental that he alienated many artists, leading to much comment. For example, Punch published a comic poem about a victim of the critic, which contained the lines, "I paints and paints, hears no complaints...then savage Ruskin sticks his tusk in and nobody will buy."

Ruskin also sought to encourage new architecture based on his theories. He was friendly with Sir Henry Acland, who supported his attempts to get the new Oxford University Museum of Natural History built as a model of modern Gothic. Ruskin also inspired other architects to adapt the Gothic style for modern culture. These buildings created what has been called a distinctive "Ruskinian Gothic" style.[11]

[edit] Later life

Following a crisis of religious belief, and under the influence of his great friend Thomas Carlyle, Ruskin abandoned art criticism at the end of the 1850s, moving towards commentary on politics. In Unto This Last, he expounded theories about social justice, which influenced the development of the British Labour party and Christian socialism. On his father's death, Ruskin declared it was not possible to be a rich socialist, and gave away most of his inheritance. He founded the charity known as the Guild of St George in the 1870s, and endowed it with large sums of money and a remarkable art collection. He gave money to enable Octavia Hill to begin her practical campaign of housing reform. He attempted to reach a wide readership with his pamphlets Fors Clavigera, aimed at the "working men of England". He taught at the Working Men's College, London, and was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford, from 1869 to 1879. His lectures were so popular that they had to be given twice—once for the students, and again for the public. In 1871, John Ruskin founded his own art school in Oxford - The Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art, originally accommodated within the Ashmolean Museum. As Oxford’s first Slade Professor, Ruskin intended to create a course in fine art for Oxford University which would lead to the (present) fine art degree. Ruskin College, Oxford is also named after him.

While at Oxford, Ruskin became friendly with Lewis Carroll, another don, who photographed him. According to Ruskin, in his autobiography, Praeterita, after the rift between Carroll and the Liddells, the sisters pursued a similar relationship with him. During this period Ruskin became enamoured of Rose la Touche, an intensely religious girl, whom he met through his patronage of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, a talented watercolourist. He was introduced to Rose in 1858, when she was only ten years old, proposed to her eight years later, and was finally rejected in 1872. She died in 1875. These events plunged Ruskin into despair and led to bouts of mental illness involving a number of breakdowns and delirious visions. It has been argued that this condition may have been CADASIL, form of encephalopathy that causes irritation and visual disturbances.[12]

Rose la Touche, as sketched by Ruskin.

In the July 1877 letters of Fors Clavigera, he launched a scathing attack on paintings by James McNeill Whistler exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery. He found particular fault with Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, and accused Whistler of "ask[ing] two hundred guineas for throwing a pot of paint in the public's face".[13] Whistler filed a libel suit against Ruskin. Whistler won the case, which went to trial in 1878, but the jury awarded him only one farthing for damages. Court costs were split between Ruskin and Whistler. The episode tarnished Ruskin's reputation, and may have accelerated his mental decline.

The emergence of the Aesthetic movement and Impressionism alienated Ruskin from the art world, and his later writings were increasingly seen as irrelevant, especially as he seemed to be more interested in book illustrators such as Kate Greenaway than in modern art. He continued to support philanthropic movements such as the Home Arts and Industries Association.

[edit] Final years

From 1871 until his death from influenza in 1900 at the age of 80, Ruskin lived at Brantwood, on the shores of Coniston Water, in the English Lake District. He was buried in the churchyard at Coniston. As he had grown weaker, suffering prolonged bouts of mental illness, he had been looked after by his second cousin, Joan Severn, who inherited the estate. The contents were dispersed in a series of sales at auction, and Brantwood itself was bought in 1932 by the Ruskin enthusiast and educationist, John Howard Whitehouse. In 1934, it was opened to the public as a memorial to Ruskin.[14]

[edit] Work

Upper: Steel-plate engraving of Ruskin as a young man, c.1845, print made circa 1895.
Middle: Ruskin in middle-age, as Slade Professor of Art at Oxford (1869–1879). From 1879 book.
Bottom: John Ruskin in old age by Frederick Hollyer. 1894 print.

Ruskin's range was vast. He wrote over 250 works which started from art history, but expanded to cover topics ranging over science, geology, ornithology, literary criticism, the environmental effects of pollution, and mythology. After his death Ruskin's works were collected together in a massive "library edition", completed in 1912 by his friends Edward Tyas Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. Its index is famously elaborate, attempting to articulate the complex interconnectedness of his thought.

[edit] Art and design criticism

Ruskin based his early work in defense of Turner on a belief that art communicated an understanding of nature, and that authentic artists should reject inherited conventions, and study and appreciate effects of form and colour by direct observation. His most famous dictum was "go to nature in all singleness of heart, rejecting nothing and selecting nothing." He later believed that the Pre-Raphaelites formed "a new and noble school" of art that would provide a basis for a thoroughgoing reform of the art world. For Ruskin, art should communicate truth above all things. However, he believed this was not revealed by mere display of skill, but the expression of the artist's whole moral outlook. Ruskin rejected the work of Whistler because he considered it to epitomise a reductive mechanisation of art.

Ruskin's famous diatribe rejecting Classical tradition in The Stones of Venice—one of the 19th century's most influential books—embodies the inextricable mix of aesthetics and morality in his thought: "Pagan in its origin, proud and unholy in its revival, paralysed in its old age... an architecture invented, as it seems, to make plagiarists of its architects, slaves of its workmen, and sybarites of its inhabitants; an architecture in which intellect is idle, invention impossible, but in which all luxury is gratified and all insolence fortified."[15] Rejection of mechanisation and standardisation also informed Ruskin's theories of architecture, and his emphasis on the importance of the Medieval Gothic style. He praised the Gothic style for what he saw as its reverence for nature and natural forms; the free, unfettered expression of artisans constructing and decorating buildings; and for the organic relationship he posited between worker and guild, worker and community, worker and natural environment, and between worker and God. Nineteenth century attempts to reproduce Gothic form (pointed arches, etc.) were not enough to make these buildings expressions of what Ruskin (however erroneously, perhaps) saw as true Gothic feeling, faith, and organicism.

For Ruskin, the Gothic style embodied the same moral truths he sought in art. It expressed the 'meaning' of architecture—as a combination of the values of strength, solidity and aspiration—all written, as it were, in stone. For Ruskin, creating true Gothic architecture involved the whole community, and expressed the full range of human emotions, from the sublime effects of soaring spires to the comically ridiculous carved grotesques and gargoyles. Even its crude and "savage" aspects were proof of "the liberty of every workman who struck the stone; a freedom of thought, and rank in scale of being, such as no laws, no charters, no charities can secure."[16] Classical architecture, in contrast, expressed a morally vacuous repressive standardisation. Ruskin associated Classical values with modern developments, in particular with demoralising consequences of the industrial revolution, resulting in buildings such as The Crystal Palace, which he despised as an oversized greenhouse. Although Ruskin wrote about architecture in many works over the course of his career, his much-anthologised essay "The Nature of Gothic" from the second volume of The Stones of Venice (1853) is widely considered to be one of his most important and evocative discussions of his central argument.

Ruskin's arguments encouraged a revival of Gothic styles, but Ruskin himself was often dissatisfied with the results. He objected that forms of mass-produced faux Gothic did not exemplify his principles, but showed disregard for the true meaning of the style. Even the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a building designed with Ruskin's collaboration, met with his disapproval. The O'Shea brothers, freehand stone carvers chosen to revive the creative "freedom of thought" of Gothic craftsmen, disappointed him by their lack of reverence for the task.

Ruskin's distaste for oppressive standardisation led to later works attacking Laissez-faire capitalism, which influenced many trade union leaders of the Victorian era. He also was an inspiration for the Arts and Crafts Movement, the founding of the National Trust, the National Art Collections Fund, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

John Ruskin's Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlas, 1853. Pen and ink and wash with Chinese ink on paper, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.

Ruskin's views on art, wrote Kenneth Clark, "cannot be made to form a logical system, and perhaps owe to this fact a part of their value." Ruskin's accounts of art are descriptions of a superior type that conjure images vividly in the mind's eye.[17] Certain principles, however, remain consistent throughout his work, which Clark summarised as:

  1. Art is not a matter of taste, but involves the whole man. Whether in making or perceiving a work of art, we bring to bear on it feeling, intellect, morals, knowledge, memory, and every other human capacity, all focused in a flash on a single point. Aesthetic man is a concept as false and dehumanizing as economic man.
  2. Even the most superior mind and the most powerful imagination must found itself on facts, which must be recognized for what they are. The imagination will often reshape them in a way which the prosaic mind cannot understand; but this recreation will be based on facts, not on formulas or illusions.
  3. These facts must be perceived by the senses, or felt; not learnt.
  4. The greatest artists and schools of art have believed it their duty to impart vital truths, not only about the facts of vision, but about religion and the conduct of life.
  5. Beauty of form is revealed in organisms which have developed perfectly according to their laws of growth, and so give, in his own words, 'the appearance of felicitous fulfillment of function.'
  6. This fulfillment of function depends on all parts of an organism cohering and cooperating. This was what he called the 'Law of Help,' one of Ruskin's fundamental beliefs, extending from nature and art to society.
  7. Good art is done with enjoyment. The artist must feel that, within certain reasonable limits, he is free, that he is wanted by society, and that the ideas he is asked to express are true and important.
  8. Great art is the expression of epochs where people are united by a common faith and a common purpose, accept their laws, believe in their leaders, and take a serious view of human destiny.[18]

[edit] Historic preservation

Ruskin's belief in preservation of ancient buildings had a significant influence on later thinking about the distinction between conservation and restoration of old buildings. Ruskin was a strong proponent of the former, while his contemporary, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, advocated for the latter. In The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Ruskin writes:

Neither by the public, nor by those who have the care of public monuments, is the true meaning of the word restoration understood. It means the most total destruction which a building can suffer: a destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this important matter; it is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture.[19]

This abhorrence for restoration is in marked contrast to Viollet-le-Duc, who wrote that restoration is a "means to reestablish [a building] to a finished state, which may in fact never have actually existed at any given time."[20]

Ruskin had a deep respect for Gothic architecture and old buildings in general. To him, the building's age was the most important aspect of its preservation: "For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, not in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity.”[21]

[edit] Excrescence

Ruskin defined an "excrescence" as an outgrowth of the main body of a building that does not harmonize well with the main body. He originally used the term to describe certain gothic revival features[22] also for later additions to cathedrals and various other public buildings, especially from the gothic period.[23]

[edit] Social theory

Ruskin's pioneering of ideas that helped lead to the Arts and Crafts movement was related to the growth of Christian socialism, an outlook that he helped formulate in his book Unto This Last, in which he attacked capitalism on the ground that it failed to acknowledge complexities of human desires and motivations. Ruskin believed that jobs should be paid at a fixed rate, so that the best workmen got employed, instead of those that offered to do the job at a lower price:

"Nay, but I choose my physician and my clergyman, thus indicating my sense of the quality of their work. By all means, also, choose your bricklayer; that is the proper reward of the good workman, to be "chosen." The natural and right system respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate, but the good workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed. The false, unnatural, and destructive system is when the bad workman is allowed to offer his work at half-price, and either take the place of the good, or force him by his competition to work for an inadequate sum."

He argued that the State should intervene to regulate the economy in the service of such higher values. These ideas were closely related to those of Thomas Carlyle, but whereas Carlyle emphasised the need for strong leadership, Ruskin emphasised what later evolved into the concept of "social economy"—networks of charitable, co-operative and other non-governmental organisations.

In The Stones of Venice, the previously mentioned chapter "The Nature of Gothic" attacked the division of labour, which Adam Smith advocated in the early books of The Wealth of Nations. Ruskin believed the division of labour to be the main cause of the unhappiness of the poor. Ruskin argued that the rich had never been so generous in the past, but the poor's hatred of the rich was at its greatest point. This was because the poor were now unsatisfied by monotonous work that used them as a tool, instead of a person. These ideas later influenced William Morris.

[edit] Art

Though he never exhibited his paintings, Ruskin's own work was very distinctive. He created many careful studies of natural forms, adapting the style of Turner to detailed botanical, geological and architectural observation. He also painted a decorative floral border in the central room of Wallington Hall in Northumberland, home of his friend Pauline Trevelyan. The stained glass window in the Little Church of St Francis Funtley, Fareham, Hampshire is reputed to have been designed by him. Originally placed in the St. Peter's Church Duntisbourne Abbots near Cirencester, the window depicts the Ascension and the Nativity.[24]

[edit] Fairy Tale

Ruskin's fairy tale, The King of the Golden River (1841), prepared the ground for the major fantasy novels of his close friend George MacDonald, who in 1858 wrote what may be the first fantasy novel for adults, Phantastes. The manner in which Ruskin wrote The King of the Golden River—as a gift to the twelve year old Effie Gray—is remarkably parallel to Lewis Carroll's later work, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which Carroll wrote for Alice Liddell and later revised and published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Ruskin also contributed to the scholarship on this newly emerging genre later in his life, defining the aims of fantasy literature in his lecture "Fairy Land" (in The Art of England, 1884).

[edit] Legacy

[edit] International influence

Ruskin’s influence reached across the world. Tolstoy described him as, “one of the most remarkable men not only of England and of our generation, but of all countries and times” and quoted extensively from him, rendering his words into Russian.[25] Proust not only admired Ruskin but helped translate his works into French.[26] Gandhi wrote of the “magic spell” cast on him by Unto This Last and paraphrased the work in Gujarati, calling it Sarvodaya, “The Welfare of All”.[27] In Japan, Ryuzo Mikimoto actively collaborated in Ruskin's translation. He commissioned sculptures and sundry commemorative items, and incorporated Ruskinian rose motifs in the jewellery produced by his pearl empire. He established the Ruskin Society of Tokyo and he built a dedicated library for his Ruskin collection.[28]

Cannery operation in the Ruskin Cooperative, 1896

A number of Utopian socialist Ruskin Colonies attempted to put his political ideals into practice. These communities included Ruskin, Florida, Ruskin, British Columbia and the Ruskin Commonwealth Association, a colony which existed in Dickson County, Tennessee from 1894 to 1899.

Ruskin’s work has been translated into almost every language including, in addition to those already mentioned (Russian, French, Japanese): German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, Polish, Swedish, Welsh and even Esperanto and Gikuyu.

[edit] Reaching across the disciplines

[edit] Art, architecture and literature

Theorists and practitioners in a broad range of disciplines acknowledged their debt to Ruskin. Architects including Le Corbusier, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius incorporated Ruskin’s ideas in their work.[29] Writers as diverse as Oscar Wilde, G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound felt Ruskin’s influence. The American poet Marianne Moore was an enthusiastic Ruskin reader. Art historians and critics, among them Herbert Read, Roger Fry and Wilhelm Worringer knew Ruskin's work well.[30] Admirers ranged from the British-born American watercolourist and engraver, John William Hill to the sculptor-designer, printmaker and utopianist, Eric Gill. Aside from E. T. Cook, Ruskin's editor and biographer, other leading British journalists influenced by Ruskin include J. A. Spender, and the war correspondent, H. W. Nevinson.

[edit] Craft and conservation

William Morris and C. R. Ashbee (the Guild of Handicraft) were keen disciples, and through them Ruskin’s legacy can be traced in the arts and crafts movement. Ruskin's ideas on preservation of open spaces and conservation of historic buildings and places inspired his friends, Octavia Hill and Hardwicke Rawnsley, to help found the National Trust.

[edit] Society and education

Pioneers of town planning, such as Thomas Coglan Horsfall and Patrick Geddes called Ruskin an inspiration and invoked his ideas in their writings. The same is true for the founding architects of the garden city movement, Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin.[31]

Edward Carpenter’s community in Millthorpe, Derbyshire was partly inspired by Ruskin, and John Kenworthy’s colony at Purleigh, briefly a refuge for the Doukhobors, combined Ruskin’s ideas and Tolstoy’s.

The most prolific collector of Ruskiniana was John Howard Whitehouse, who saved Ruskin home, Brantwood, and opened it as a national memorial. Inspired by Ruskin’s educational ideals, Whitehouse established Bembridge School, on the Isle of Wight, and ran it along Ruskinian lines. Educationists from William Jolly to Michael Ernest Sadler wrote about and appreciated Ruskin’s ideas.[32] Ruskin College, an educational establishment in Oxford originally intended for working men, was named after him by its American founders, Walter Vrooman and Charles A. Beard.

Ruskin's innovative publishing experiment, conducted by his one-time Working Men's College pupil, George Allen, whose business was eventually merged to become Allen & Unwin, antiicipated the establishment of the Net Book Agreement.

[edit] Politics and economics

Ruskin had a wide-ranging impact on politics and social economics. He was an inspiration for many Christian socialists, and his ideas informed the work of economists such as William Smart and J. A. Hobson, and the positivist, Frederic Harrison.[33] Ruskin was discussed in university extension classes, and in reading circles and societies formed in his name. He helped to inspire the settlement movement in Britain and the United States. Resident workers at Toynbee Hall such as the later civil servants Hubert Llewellyn Smith and William Beveridge (author of the Report ... on Social Insurance and Allied Services), and the future Prime Minister Clement Attlee acknowledged their debt to Ruskin as they helped to found the British welfare state. More of the British Labour Party's earliest members acknowledged his significance than mentioned Karl Marx or the Bible.[34]

[edit] Ruskin in the 21st-century

Admirers and scholars of Ruskin can visit the Ruskin Library at Lancaster University, also Ruskin's home, Brantwood and the Ruskin Museum, both in Coniston in the English Lake District, All three mount regular exhibitions open to the public all the year round.[35] Ruskin's Guild of St George continues his work today.

John Ruskin Street in Walworth, London

Many streets, buildings, organisations and institutions bear his name. Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford and Cambridge traces its origins to the Cambridge School of Art, at the foundation of which Ruskin spoke in 1858. John Ruskin College, South Croydon, is named after him. The Ruskin Literary and Debating Society, (founded in 1900 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), the oldest surviving club of its type, still promoting the development of literary knowledge and public speaking today. The Ruskin Art Club is the oldest ladies club in Los Angeles. In addition, there is the Ruskin Pottery, Ruskin House, Croydon and Ruskin Hall at the University of Pittsburgh.

Since 2000, scholarly research has focused on aspects of Ruskin's legacy, including his impact on the sciences; John Lubbock and Oliver Lodge admired him. Two major academic projects have looked at Ruskin and cultural tourism (investigating, for example, Ruskin's links with Thomas Cook, the Co-operative Holidays Association and the Youth Hostels Association)[36];the other focuses on Ruskin and the theatre.[37] The sociologist and media theorist, David Gauntlett, argues that Ruskin's notions of craft can be traced to today's online community at YouTube and throughout Web 2.0.[38]

Notable modern-day Ruskin enthusiasts include the writers Geoffrey Hill and Charles Tomlinson, and the politicians, Patrick Cormack, Frank Judd[39], Frank Field[40] and Tony Benn.[41] In 2006, Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury, Raficq Abdulla, Jonathon Porritt and Nicholas Wright were among those to contribute to the symposium, There is no wealth but life: Ruskin in the 21st Century.[42] Jonathan Glancey at The Guardian and Andrew Hill at the Financial Times have both written about Ruskin,[43] as has the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg.[44]

[edit] Controversies

[edit] Turner erotic drawings

Until 2005, biographies of both J. M. W. Turner and Ruskin had claimed that in 1858 Ruskin burned bundles of erotic paintings and drawings by Turner to protect Turner's posthumous reputation. Ruskin's friend Ralph Nicholson Wornum, who was Keeper of the National Gallery was said to have colluded in the alleged destruction of Turner's works. In 2005, these works, which form part of the Turner Bequest held at Tate Britain, were re-appraised by Turner Curator Ian Warrell, who concluded that Ruskin and Wornum did not destroy them.[45][46]

[edit] Sexuality

Ruskin's sexuality has led to much speculation and critical comment. His one marriage, to Effie Gray, was annulled after six years because of non-consummation. His wife, in a letter to her parents, claimed that he found her "person" (meaning her body) repugnant. "He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason... that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April." Ruskin confirmed this in his statement to his lawyer during the annulment proceedings. "It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it."[47]

The cause of this mysterious "disgust" has led to much speculation. Ruskin's biographer, Mary Lutyens, suggested that he rejected Effie because he was horrified by the sight of her pubic hair. Lutyens argued that Ruskin must have known the female form only through Greek statues and paintings of the nude lacking pubic hair and found the reality shocking.[48] This speculation has been repeated by later biographers and essayists and it is now something that "everyone knows" about Ruskin.[49] However, Peter Fuller in his book Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace writes, "It has been said that he was frightened on the wedding night by the sight of his wife's pubic hair; more probably, he was perturbed by her menstrual blood."[50] Ruskin's biographers Tim Hilton and John Batchelor also take the view that menstruation is the more likely explanation, though Batchelor also suggests that body-odour may have been the problem.

Ruskin's later relationship with Rose la Touche has also led to claims that he was a paedophile, on the grounds that he stated that he fell in love with her when he met her at the age of nine.[51] In fact he did not approach her as a suitor until she was seventeen, and he repeatedly proposed to her for as long as she lived. Ruskin is not known to have had any other romantic liaisons or sexual intimacies. However, during an episode of mental derangement after Rose died he wrote a letter in which he insisted that Rose's spirit had instructed him to marry a girl who was visiting him at the time.[52] Letters from Ruskin to Kate Greenaway also exist, in which he repeatedly asks her to draw her "girlies" (as he called her child figures) without clothing:

Will you – (it’s all for your own good – !) make her stand up and then draw her for me without a cap – and, without her shoes, – (because of the heels) and without her mittens, and without her – frock and frills? And let me see exactly how tall she is – and – how – round. It will be so good of and for you – And to and for me.[53]

In a letter to his physician John Simon on 15 May 1886, Ruskin writes

"I like my girls from ten to sixteen—allowing of 17 or 18 as long as they’re not in love with anybody but me.—I’ve got some darlings of 8—12—14—just now, and my pigwiggina here—12—who fetches my wood and is learning to play my bells."[54]

Ruskin's biographers disagree about the allegation of paedophilia. Hilton, in his two-volume biography, boldly asserts that "he was a paedophile", while Batchelor argues that the term is inappropriate because his behaviour does not "fit the profile".[55] Others also point to a definite pattern of "nympholeptic" behaviour with regards to his interactions with girls at a boarding school.[56]

[edit] Definitions

John Ruskin.

[edit] Fictional portrayals

[edit] Select Bibliography

The standard scholarly edition of Ruskin’s work, the Library Edition, sometimes called simply ‘'Cook and Wedderburn'’, is: The Works of John Ruskin (39 vols.) (eds. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn) (George Allen, 1903–1912). The volume in which the following works can be found is indicated in the form (Works vol. no.)[67]

[edit] Works by Ruskin

[edit] Selected diaries and letters

[edit] Selected editions of Ruskin still in print

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Biographies of Ruskin

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (39 vols.) (George Allen, 1903-12) vol. 1, p. 453n2 (hereafter Works x.x)
  2. ^ Works 3.104
  3. ^ Q. in Harold I. Shapiro (ed.), Ruskin in Italy: Letters to His Parents 1845 (Clarendon Press, 1972) pp.200-1.
  4. ^ Works 4.47 (Modern Painters II)
  5. ^ Euphemia ('Effie') Chalmers (née Gray), Lady Millais, National Portrait Gallery
  6. ^ Sir William James, The Order of Release, the story of John Ruskin, Effie Gray and John Everett Millais, 1946, p.237
  7. ^ Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, 1983, p. 87
  8. ^ Jonathan Smith, Architecture and Induction: Whewell and Ruskin on Gothic A talk presented at "Science and British Culture in the 1830s," Trinity College, Cambridge, July 1994.
  9. ^ Ruskin and Millais at Glenfinlas, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 138, No. 1117, pages 228–234, April 1996. (Accessed via JSTOR, UK.)
  10. ^ Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, 1983, pp.49-94
  11. ^ Crook, J. Mordaunt. "Ruskinian Gothic." The Ruskin Polygon: Essays on the Imagination of John Ruskin. Ed. John Dixon Hunt and Faith M. Holland. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1982. 65-93.
  12. ^ Kempster PA, Alty JE. (2008). John Ruskin's relapsing encephalopathy. Brain. Sep;131(Pt 9):2520-5. doi:10.1093/brain/awn019 PMID 18287121
  13. ^ Linda Merrill, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler v. Ruskin. — book review, Art in America, January 1993, by Wendy Steiner
  14. ^ An online history of Brantwood
  15. ^ Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, iii, ch. iv,§35.
  16. ^ John Unrau, Ruskin, the Workman and the Savageness of Gothic, in New Approaches to Ruskin, ed Robert Hewison, 1981,pp.33-50
  17. ^ Fowler, Alastair (1989). The History of English Literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 245. ISBN 0-674-39664-2. 
  18. ^ Kenneth Clark, "A Note on Ruskin's Writings on Art and Architecture," from Ruskin Today 1964
  19. ^ John Ruskin. ([1880] 1989). The seven lamps of architecture. New York: Dover Publications. P. 194
  20. ^ Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. ([1854] 1990). The foundations of architecture. New York: George Braziller. P. 195. (Translated by Kenneth D. Whitehead from the original French.)
  21. ^ John Ruskin. ([1880] 1989). The seven lamps of architecture. New York: Dover Publications. P. 186
  22. ^ Ruskin, John (1989). The Seven Lamps of Architecture. Dover Publicatoins. p. 210. 
  23. ^ Ruskin, John (1989). The Seven Lamps of Architecture. Dover Publicatoins. p. 396. .
  24. ^ Malcolm Low & Julie Graham, The stained glass window of the Little Church of St. Francis, private publication Aug 2002 & April 2006, for viewing Fareham Library reference Section or the Westbury Manor Museum Ref: section Fareham, hants; The stained glass window of the Church of St. Francis. Funtley, Fareham, Hampshire
  25. ^ Stuart Eagles, Ruskin and Tolstoy (Guild of St George, 2010).
  26. ^ Cynthia J. Gamble, Proust as Interpreter of Ruskin. The Seven Lamps of Translation (Summa Publications, 2002).
  27. ^ "Gandhi's Human Touch"
  28. ^ Catalogue of the Mikimoto Collection, Ruskin Library, Tokyo
  29. ^ Rebecca Daniels and Geoff Brandwood (ed.), Ruskin and Architecture (Spire Books, 2003).
  30. ^ Giovanni Cianci and Peter Nicholls (eds.) Ruskin and Modernism (Palgrave, 2001) and Toni Cerutti (ed.) Ruskin and the Twentieth Century: the modernity of Ruskinism (Edizioni Mercurio, 2000).
  31. ^ Michael H. Lang Designing Utopia: John Ruskin's Urban Vision for Britain and America (Black Rose Books Ltd., 1999).
  32. ^ For a full discussion of Ruskin and education, see Sara Atwood, Ruskin’s Educational Ideals (Ashgate, 2011).
  33. ^ Gill Cockram, Ruskin and Social Reform: Ethics and Ideals in the Victorian Age (Tauris, 2007).
  34. ^ Stuart Eagles, After Ruskin: the social and political legacies of a Victorian prophet, 1870-1920 (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Dinah Birch (ed.) Ruskin and the Dawn of the Modern (Oxford University Press, 1999).
  35. ^ Visit the websites: Ruskin Library, Brantwood and Ruskin Museum, Coniston
  36. ^ Keith Hanley and John K. Walton, Constructing Cultural Tourism: John Ruskin and the Tourist Gaze (Channel View Publications, 2010).
  37. ^ Katherine Newey and Jeffrey Richards John Ruskin and the Victorian Theatre (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
  38. ^ David Gauntlett Making Is Connecting: the social meaning of creativity from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0 (Polity, 2011) pp. 25-36, 217-19; specifically on YouTube see pp. 85-87.
  39. ^ Frank Judd is a trustee of the Ruskin Foundation.
  40. ^ Frank Field spoke at the Art Workers Guild on Ruskin, 6 February 2010. See Stuart Eagles, The Economic Symposium. John Ruskin and the Modern World: Art and Economics, 1860-2010 in The Companion no. 10 (2010) pp. 7-10.
  41. ^ Omnibus. Ruskin: The Last Visionary , tx. BBC1, 13 March, 2000.
  42. ^ Robert Hewison (ed.) There is no wealth but life: Ruskin in the 21st Century (Ruskin To-Day, 2006).
  43. ^ See Andrew Hill, Introduction in John Ruskin, Unto This Last (Pallas Athene, 2010) pp. 9-16.
  44. ^ Melvyn Bragg, Foreword in John Ruskin, On Genius (Hesperus, 2011) pp. vii-xiv.
  45. ^ The Guardian report on the discovery of Turner's drawings. Also see Warrell "Exploring the 'Dark Side': Ruskin and the Problem of Turner's Erotica", British Art Journal, vol. IV, no. 1, Spring 2003, pp.15-46.
  46. ^ New York Times article: "No Bonfire Devoured J.M.W. Turner's Erotica" 13 January 2005
  47. ^ Lutyens, M., Millais and the Ruskins, p.191
  48. ^ Lutyens, M., Millais and the Ruskins, p.156
  49. ^ For example Gene Weingarten comments on the marriage in his book I'm with Stupid (2004) "Ruskin had it annulled [sic] because he was horrified to behold upon his bride a thatch of hair, rough and wild, similar to a man's. He thought her a monster." p.150-1
  50. ^ Peter Fuller, Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace, Chatto & Windus, 1988, p.11-12
  51. ^ Current evidence suggests that she was ten when they met, but Ruskin states in his autobiography that she was only nine. Hewison, R, John Ruskin, the Argument of the Eye, p.160; The Guardian, review of Batchelor, J., John Ruskin: No Wealth but Life, 2000
  52. ^ Hilton, T. John Ruskin: The Later Years, p. 553, "absolutely under her [Rose's] orders I have asked Tenny Watson to marry me and come abroad with her father."
  53. ^ Lurie, Alison Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature
  54. ^ " Ruskin on his sexuality: a lost source" Philological Quarterly, Fall, 2007 by Van Akin Burd
  55. ^ Hilton, T, John Ruskin: A Life, vol. 1, p. 253-4; Batchelor, J, John Ruskin: No Wealth but Life. p.202.
  56. ^ ,Wolfgang Kemp and Jan Van Heurck, The Desire of My Eyes: The Life & Work of John Ruskin , p. 288.
  57. ^ The Love of John Ruskin
  58. ^ John Ruskin's Wife
  59. ^ The Passion of John Ruskin
  60. ^ "Modern Painters" (opera)
  61. ^ Parrots and Owls
  62. ^ The Countess
  63. ^ The Invention of Truth
  64. ^ The Order of Release
  65. ^ The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits
  66. ^ Sesame and Roses
  67. ^ The Works of John Ruskin. The Ruskin Library and Research Centre website.
  68. ^ The Life of John Ruskin sixth edition (1905)
  69. ^ The Life of John Ruskin vol. 1 of the second edition (1912) The Life of John Ruskin vol. 2 of the second edition (1912)

[edit] External links

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