Lancaster University

Ruskin Library

10 January - 29 March

Ruskin and the Old Masters

As an art critic, Ruskin is chiefly remembered for his lifelong championship of J.M.W. Turner and his defence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and patronage of artists such as Rossetti and Burne-Jones.   From an early age, however, he had attempted a systematic study of the history of art, concentrating on Italian Renaissance painting, which was to remain an almost equal passion with his love of architecture.  Writings following his seminal visit to Italy in 1845 soon made him a recognised authority.

John Ruskin :Study of the central portion of Tintoretto's 'Crucifixion'

John Ruskin :Study of the central portion of Tintoretto's 'Crucifixion'

A natural and restless draughtsman, Ruskin made copious drawings of the paintings and sculpture that most fascinated him, from rapid thumbnail sketches to highly detailed copies.  This display includes his responses to work by some of his favourite artists, including Tintoretto, Carpaccio and Veronese.  He also collected photographs and other reproductions, but believed that far more could be understood during the act of drawing directly from the original.   In later years, Ruskin tended to concentrate on individual details of paintings, which both delighted him aesthetically and provided a focus for arguments in subsequent writings or lectures, from Modern Painters to the Slade lectures at Oxford. 

He commissioned many copies from professional artists regularly working in Italy.  Most of these were destined for the Guild of St. George museum at Sheffield, but examples by Charles Fairfax Murray, Angelo Alessandri and J.W. Bunney are also in the Whitehouse Collection in the Ruskin Library.

Charles Fairfax Murray: The calling of Matthew, after Carpaccio

Charles Fairfax Murray: The calling of Matthew, after Carpaccio



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