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Mr John Ruskin

John Ruskin, author, poet and artist, influenced not only Victorian social thinking on art, but also the Edwardians' understanding of the subject. He was the Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford between 1870 and 1890.

Early Life: John Ruskin was born on February 8, 1819, in London, England, to a prosperous family. His father, John James Ruskin, was a wine merchant, and his mother, Margaret Cox, instilled in him a love for literature and the arts. Ruskin's early education was diverse, encompassing drawing lessons, natural history, and exposure to classical literature.

Educational Journey: Ruskin attended Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied a wide range of subjects, including art, poetry, and geology. His encounter with J.M.W. Turner's paintings during his travels kindled his passion for art. This experience marked the beginning of Ruskin's lifelong appreciation for the interplay between art, nature, and society.

Pioneering Art Critic: In 1843, Ruskin published the first volume of "Modern Painters," a groundbreaking work that reshaped art criticism. His eloquent defense of J.M.W. Turner's work, coupled with his philosophical reflections on the relationship between art and nature, garnered attention and established him as a leading art critic of his time.

Marriage and Travels: In 1848, Ruskin married Effie Gray, but the marriage was eventually annulled in 1854. Despite the personal challenges, Ruskin continued his extensive travels, exploring Europe and recording his observations in works like "The Stones of Venice" (1851-1853). His travelogues combined art criticism, architectural analysis, and social commentary.

Social Reformer and Writer: Ruskin's interests extended beyond art to social and economic issues. His writings, including "Unto This Last" (1860), advocated for economic justice and criticized the dehumanizing effects of industrialization. Ruskin's ideas influenced political thinkers and social reformers, including Mahatma Gandhi.

Educational Reforms: As a proponent of education, Ruskin founded the Working Men's College in London in 1854, aiming to provide practical education and artistic training to working-class individuals. His vision emphasized the importance of a holistic education that combined arts and sciences.

Later Years and Legacy: In his later years, Ruskin faced challenges related to his mental health. Despite this, he continued to write prolifically on various topics, including art, social issues, and his autobiography, "Praeterita" (1885-1889).

Towards the end of his life, John Ruskin suffered a series of mental breakdowns and died at his home, Brantwood, in 1900,
leaving behind a legacy that transcended art criticism. His influence on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the Arts and Crafts Movement, and his contributions to social reform have solidified his place as a multifaceted figure in the 19th-century cultural landscape.


  1. Ruskin, John. "Modern Painters." Various volumes (1843-1860).
  2. Ruskin, John. "The Stones of Venice." (1851-1853).
  3. Ruskin, John. "Unto This Last." (1860).
  4. Ruskin, John. "Praeterita." (1885-1889).
  5. Hilton, Tim. "John Ruskin: The Later Years." Yale University Press, 2000.
  6. Hewison, Robert. "John Ruskin: The Argument of the Eye." Princeton University Press, 1976.
  7. Cook, E. T. "The Life of John Ruskin." George Allen, 1911.

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