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A portait of John Ruskin

John Ruskin - Artist & Prophet. He spent his life's work explaining the glories of art and relieving miseries of men.

In the midst of the splendour English Lake District mountains you can visit his house, Brantwood, on the shore of Coniston Water. See our Gateway to the Lake District tour and learn more about what you will see in this inspirational region.

John Ruskin has been described as an earnest but solitary boy with kind but stern parents. In his biography, he admits that as a child he had begun "to lead a very small, perky, contented conceited, Cock-Robinson-Crusoe sort of life."

At the age of 4 he had already learned to read from his mother. His father loved culture, fine art and books John would accompany father on business trips, being exposed to many fine pictures and his father's delight in English Countryside.

After a degree at Oxford University, he first became known to the public after expressing his anger after reading an article in Blackwood's Magazine about the English artist, J.M.W. Turner. His anger was directed at the foolish lack of understanding of Turner's art as shown in the article. This led Ruskin to start writing "Modern Painters", not finished till he was 40.

In "Modern Painters" Ruskin placed Turner as the artist who could most stirringly and truthfully measure moods of nature. John Ruskin's lectures attended by thousands. By the time of the book's second volume he had become a famous critic and writer of prose, changing the ideas of many.

Ruskin had become apologist for Turner and then also the Pre-Raphaelite movement. J.M.W. Turner once remarked that Ruskin saw more in his work than he counld himself.

In 1848 he married and wrote "King of the Golden River" for his wife. Sadly, the marriage was annulled after 2 years and Ruskin returned to live with parents till their death. He fell in love again but his second love sickened & died.

Ruskin was to change tack completely from art and turned to sociology. His sermons now focused on poverty, ignorance and oppression in industrial Britain. His writings nevertheless had unusually romantic titles - "Unto this Last", "Ethics of the Dust", Sesame & Lillies" and "The Crown of Wild Olives".

John Ruskin was the originator of a way of "green" thinking which many would think of as something belonging to the modern era. He also expressed the importance of local industry and production for local consumption. Why did he change the focus of his writing and thinking? It is said to be due to his belief that beauty comes from right living, how can people live rightly without the chance learn , appreciate or even eat?

Another controvertial event in his life was the libel trail after critisizing the artist, Whistler. Whistler's "Falling Rocket", a painting of a firework display in London pleasure garden was attacked by Ruskin as flinging "a pot of paint … in the public's face". Whistler sued for libel and won. Unfortunately, he was awarded a token farthing in damages and court costs led to his bankruptcy.

John Ruskin died at Brantwood on the shores of Coniston Water in the Lake District in 1900.



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