Thursday, February 19th, 2009...11:46 pm

Writers on Art: John Ruskin

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Upon finishing my paper on John Ruskin, I think it is safe to say that at least for a period of time, Ruskin was Mr. BigGuns in the world of art criticism.  I didn’t realize one person could be so influential within several fields of study.  

Born in 1819 in Surrey, Ruskin received his education mainly through home-schooling and traveling.  In traveling throughout the continent, he discovered his penchant for landscapes, as well as architecture.  The emergence of the artist, J.M.W. Turner gave Ruskin an opportunity to study a contemporary artist.  He took a stance against most other art critics at the time and defended Turner’s style.  This defense could be found in the first volume of his five volume masterpiece, Modern Painters.  Ruskin would continue for seventeen years in completing this work, and over the course, his subject matter shifted.  In the later volumes, he goes on to approach sculptures, architecture, and the functions of art, all the while intertwining a religious subtext.  What was so significant about Ruskin’s Modern Painters was the attention to detail and a fluid, almost poetic literature used to describe works of art.  In defending Turner in the first volume, Ruskin in a way validated his work, as most other critics at this time were still focusing on the Renaissance.  After completing the fifth volume, Ruskin drifted out of the art world but absorbed himself into many other areas.  He lectured throughout the country, although sometimes controversial and was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford.  Unfortunately, towards the end of his life he suffered from mental illness and died in 1900.  However, his legacy of an exuberant knowledge and a willingness to defend his passions is still felt today.

Bradley, J.L. Ruskin:The Critical Heritage.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul plc, 1984.

Modern Painters John Ruskin, Modern Painters, 1843-1860. Vol. 1. London: André Deutch Ltd., 1843.

Clark, Kenneth.  Ruskin Today. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd,1964.

“Modern Painters”  The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Ed. Margaret Drabble. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  University of Mary Washington.  15 February 2009  http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t113.e5138

 

 ” Ruskin, John “  The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Ed. Margaret Drabble. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  University of Mary Washington.  15 February 2009  <http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t113.e6635>

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