Indepth Arts News: |
"Ruskin, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites"
2000-03-09 until 2000-05-29
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
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.