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Indepth Arts News:

"Ruskin, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites"
2000-03-09 until 2000-05-29
Tate Gallery
London, , UK United Kingdom

John Ruskin was not only one of Britain's greatest art critics but also the first to make his reputation by celebrating contemporary art, notably that of Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. He died on 20 January 1900: this exhibition celebrates his life and work. But the centenary of Ruskin's death is not enough in itself to explain the widespread interest in his ideas one hundred years later. Ruskin, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites explores not Ruskin's distance from us as a Victorian sage but his modernity and his position as someone who has something to say now. The aim is to present Ruskin as a contemporary critic. The art in the exhibition is a unique selection of many of the key works that Ruskin saw - but we wish to strip away the accretions of more than one hundred years to recover the radicalism of a man who called his first book Modern Painters.

Ruskin was born in London on 8 February 1819 and died at his Lake District house Brantwood, Coniston on 20 January 1900. He was the only child of a prosperous sherry merchant who was able to provide him with an aristocratic education at Oxford. His mother instilled in him her strict evangelical Protestant views. Gifted both as writer and artist, he rose to fame with the publication of the first volume of Modern Painters in 1843. In 1848, he married Effie Gray but the marriage was annulled in 1854. Effie had fallen in love with the young painter Millais, a Pre-Raphaelite, whose work Ruskin had praised.

Ruskin wrote about architecture as well as art and in his book, The Stones of Venice, began to develop ideas about social as well as art criticism. In 1860 Ruskin published Unto This Last, the first of a series of criticisms of the economic and political values of his society. In 1869, he was elected Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford and in his later years concentrated his energies on education and social reform, notably, through the foundation of the Guild of St George. Ruskin's later life was blighted by his frustrated love for a young girl, Rose La Touche, and his disappointment contributed to his increasing mental instability. His mind gave way completely for the first time in 1878 and in spite of periods of complete recovery, recurring breakdowns ended his working life in 1889. He remained at his house Brantwood until his death in 1900.

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