Ruskin and the Art of Relations

Thursday 21 February 2019, 4:15pm to 6:00pm


Ruskin Library, Lancaster, LA1 4YH - View Map

Open to

Alumni, Applicants, External Organisations, Postgraduates, Prospective Students, Public, Staff, Undergraduates


Free to attend - registration required

Registration Info

If you would like to join this seminar, please email us via or call us on 01524 593587.

Event Details

In this keynote Dr Jeremy Melius (Tufts University) will reconsider Ruskin’s account of relations in Modern Painters V in order to draw out the connections Ruskin grasped between art and the natural world.

Abstract. When Ruskin published the fifth and final volume of Modern Painters in 1860, he offered a conclusion of sorts, but also broke new ground. Modern Painters V offers some of Ruskin’s most searching treatments of individual paintings as well as his most sustained theorizations of pictorial composition, gathered together under the rubric ‘Of Ideas of Relation’. This lecture reconsiders Ruskin’s account of relations broadly conceived, and in particular to draw out the connections Ruskin grasped between art and the natural world. On the one hand, it investigates the extended allegory of composition and social comportment offered in Ruskin’s analysis of plant growth in Modern Painters V. On the other, the paper examines the relational structures Ruskin draws out of high Renaissance Venetian art as complementary to this ‘moral history’ of plants, focusing especially on his description of the enmeshed composition of Veronese’s Adoration of the Virgin by the Cuccina Family (1571) in Dresden. For this and other paintings, Ruskin attempted to forge a descriptive language that could trace the distribution of compositional links in all their promiscuity, extending from the Virgin down to the family dog along one great ‘chain of lowering feeling’. Following those links brings into focus the radical nature of Ruskin’s search for an ecology of pictorial structure, one staged in his descriptions less as a system of fixed bonds than an atmosphere of potential affinities—an elastic relationality, if you like, natural as well as social, to which picturing might give provisional form.


Dr Jeremy Melius Tufts University, USA

Contact Details

Name Jen Shepherd

Telephone number

+44 1524 593587