JOHN RUSKIN

Dates: 1819-1900

Nationality: British

John Ruskin (February 8, 1819 – January, 20 1900) was an English art critic and social thinker, also remembered as a poet and artist. His essays on art and architecture were extremely influential in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Ruskin first came to widespread attention for his support for the work of J. M. W. Turner and his defence of naturalism in art. He subsequently put his weight behind the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His later writings turned increasingly to complex and personal explorations of the interconnection of cultural, social and moral issues, and were influential on the development of Christian socialism.

He went on to publish the first volume of one of his major works, Modern Painters, in 1843, under the anonymous identity “An Oxford Graduate.” This work argued that modern landscape painters—and in particular J. M. W. Turner—were superior to the so-called “Old Masters” of the post-Renaissance period. Such a claim was controversial, especially as Turner’s semi-abstract late works were being denounced by some critics as meaningless daubs. The degree to which Ruskin reversed an anti-Turnerian tide may have been overemphasized in the past, as Turner was a renowned and major figure in the early Victorian art world and a prominent member of the Royal Academy. Ruskin’s criticism of Old Masters like Gaspard Dughet (Gaspar Poussin), Claude Lorrain, and Salvator Rosa, was much more controversial, given the immense respect they held at the time. The attack on the old masters centered on what Ruskin perceived as their lack of attention to natural truth. Rather than ‘going to nature,’ as Turner did, the old masters, ‘composed’ or invented their landscapes in their studios. For Ruskin, modern painters like Turner and James Duffield Harding (Ruskin’s art tutor) showed a much more profound understanding of nature, observing the ‘truths’ of water, air, clouds, stones, and vegetation.

Wikipedia contributors. “John Ruskin.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Mar. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ruskin>

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