John Ruskin, page from his diary for 1861-3

100 Facts about...

Frederick Waddy, John Ruskin, 1872
Frederick Waddy, John Ruskin, 1872

Ruskin, the man

1. Ruskin loved dogs (despite the fact that he was bitten, and permanently scarred, by one at the age of 5), and he kept dogs throughout his life, including Maude, Wisie and Bramble.

2. In addition, Ruskin’s father, John James, once seems to have bought his son a pet sheep (although there is no record of what happened to it).

3. Ruskin was acquainted with most of Victorian society’s VIPs, including Thomas Carlyle, Robert Browning and Lord Palmerston.

4. Ruskin was also friends with the Liddell family during his time in Oxford; the Liddell’s daughter, Alice, inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

5. As a student of Oxford University, Ruskin won the Newdigate Prize in 1839 for his poem Salsette and Elephanta.

6. After Turner's death, Ruskin found his many erotic drawings. The myth of Ruskin then burning them on a bonfire was challenged in 2005, when Turner Curator Ian Warrell re-appraised the works. They are now held at Tate Britain!

7. Ruskin was a Vice-President of the British Chess Association, and gave chess champions a complete set of his Works!

Ruskin's Works

7. Ruskin maintained a lifelong interest in geology; his first article on the subject was published in the Magazine of Natural History when he was just 15!

8. His early mineral hunts, often with cousin Mary Richardson, are described in Praeterita.*

9. In his lifetime, Ruskin collected many minerals and rock forms. He gave many away, including the Colenso Diamond and Edwardes Ruby to the British Museum in 1887.

10. Ruskin collected and directed the production of some of the earliest photographs of Venice, initially using daguerreotype technology.

11. Ruskin’s publisher was George Allen, whose company George Allen & Unwin published some of the 20th century’s most influential works, including The Lord of the Rings and works by Bertrand Russell and Roald Dahl.

12. Ruskin coined the term ‘pathetic fallacy’ in his book Modern Painters. Its original meaning was the ‘falseness’ or clouding of judgment caused by heightened emotions.**

13. Ruskin only ever wrote one fairytale: The King of the Golden River (1851), for Effie Gray. It sold out 3 editions within a year and featured illustrations by Richard Doyle, the uncle of Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

14. Ruskin received many requests for drawing lessons and advice. In response to this, he wrote The Elements of Drawing which was published in 1857.

15. Ruskin’s books Modern Painters and Unto this Last inspired two comics called How to See and How to be Rich (by Jackson and Emerson), which feature the spirit of Ruskin as a main character.***

*
"...in the glittering white broken spar, specked with galena, by which the walks of the hotel garden were made bright, and in the shops of the pretty village, and in many a happy walk among its cliffs, I pursued my mineralogical studies on fluor, calcite, and the ores of lead, with indescribable rapture when I was allowed to go into a cave.”
John Ruskin, Praeterita, Vol. 1, p.75

 

**
"All violent feelings have the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as the “pathetic fallacy”."
John Ruskin, Modern Painters, Vol. 3, p.205

 


***

These are combined with the unpublished How to Work in Bloke's Progress, published in May 2018.

John Ruskin, Peacock feather
John Ruskin, Peacock Feather
John Ruskin, Zipporah, after Botticelli, 1874
John Ruskin: Zipporah (after Botticelli), 1874

Ruskin's Legacy

16. Ruskin influenced the founding of the National Trust and was friends with Octavia Hill and Canon Rawnsley.

17. His advocacy of education for all and establishment of the Guild of St George encouraged the founding of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA).

18. The Guild acquired land, the earliest being 8 cottages on a steep hillside in Barmouth, donated by Mrs. Fanny Talbot in 1872.

19. Ruskin’s political writing (especially his book of essays Unto This Last) inspired radical thinkers, including early members of the British Labour Party and India’s Mahatma Gandhi.

20. Ruskin also impressed literary greats like Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and George Eliot, who in 1858 wrote that Vols. 3-4 of Modern Painters contained "some of the finest writings of [that] age".

21. Our Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture was established in memory of Ryuzo Mikimoto, a Japanese devotee of Ruskin's work who founded the Ruskin Library of Tokyo in 1934.

22. Many other things have been named after Ruskin, including a UK university, the oldest art club in Los Angeles, a village in Nebraska and Oxford University's Ruskin School of Art.

23. Ruskin founded this school in 1871, then the Ruskin School of Drawing. For his students' use, he collected a total of 1,470 pieces of art!

24. The building where this school used to be is now the Ashmolean Museum, which still holds a huge Ruskin collection.

25. Ruskin College in Oxford was founded on Ruskin’s educational ideals and continues to promote self-development and social responsibility.

The Whitehouse Collection

26. The Whitehouse Collection is the largest collection of a single author’s works anywhere in the world.

27. The Collection was started by John Howard Whitehouse (1873-1955), Liberal MP for Mid Lanark from 1910-18.

28. Whitehouse worked as a clerk for Cadbury in the 1890s. He campaigned for a national memorial to Ruskin to be erected in their model village (Bourneville).

29. Bourneville’s Ruskin Hall was the result of Whitehouse’s campaign; once the Bournville Centre for Visual Arts, with a library, museum and lecture hall, it is now part of Birmingham City University’s International College.

30. Whitehouse worked briefly with Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Movement, and edited The Scout.

31. Whitehouse was the first Secretary of the Ruskin Society of Birmingham.

32. Whitehouse also founded Bembridge School on the Isle of Wight, and in 1929 built the Ruskin Galleries at the school to house his growing collection of materials relating to John Ruskin.

33. James S. Dearden joined Bembridge School as a pupil in the 1940s and returned in 1957 to organise the Whitehouse Collection. He became the Curator (and a teacher of printing) until the school closed and the collection moved to Lancaster in 1996.

34. Whitehouse bought Brantwood, Ruskin’s last home on the eastern shore of Coniston, in 1932. It is now an accredited museum, filled with paintings, furniture and treasures of Ruskin's, and has a vibrant programme of events all year round.

35. After Whitehouse’s death, his Collection continued to be developed by the Education Trust Ltd.

36. The Whitehouse Collection contains 196 manuscripts, including 29 volumes of Ruskin’s diaries from 1835-1888 (many of which remain unpublished).

37. The Collection also contains around 7,400 letters (also largely unpublished), including over 3,000 letters of correspondence between John Ruskin and his cousin Joan Severn, plus those to and from other relatives and associates.

38. There are around 350 books from Ruskin’s own library in the Collection.

39. The collection includes successive editions of all of Ruskin's published writings, which together form a collected edition of 39 volumes.

40. There are also many translated versions of some of his more important texts like Modern PaintersThe Stones of Venice and Unto this Last, in languages such as Japanese, French, Italian and Esperanto.

41. The holding of books about Ruskin, from contemporary criticism to modern academic studies (which are added to by the Ruskin Foundation), is complemented by an archive of transcripts, articles and newspaper cuttings. Every aspect of his wide-ranging interests is represented, from religion and the arts to political economy, geology and the environment.

42. Our Galleries display a selection from the Whitehouse Collection’s some 1,500 drawings and 500 prints – 950 of which are by Ruskin himself.

43. The Collection also contains works by Ruskin’s associates, including Samuel Prout, Francesca Alexander and Albert Goodwin.

44. 140 photographs and an important group of 125 daguerreotypes, made under Ruskin’s direction, complete the Collection.

The Ruskin Library

The Ruskin Library and Research Centre

45. Our building was designed by Sir Richard MacCormac.

46. It was formally opened in 1998 by HRH Princess Alexandra.

47. The building has won numerous awards, including Building of the Year (from Independent on Sunday (1996) and the Royal Fine Art Commission/BSkyB (University category) (1998)) and Design Council Millennium Product (1999).

48. Its design was intended to reflect Ruskin’s interest in Venice; as Sir Richard MacCormac put it:

 
“[the building] stands on a plateau of wavy meadow grass like an island surrounded by water, a metaphor for Ruskin's Venice [...] The materials used on the exterior - white concrete blocks with a sparkly marble aggregate and green polished precast-concrete bands - recall Ruskin's fascination with Venetian and Tuscan materials and construction.”

 

49. Inside the building, the glass and slate floor represents the Venetian canals that Ruskin loved.

50. The Treasury, a controlled environment within the building, contains an etched glass shutter panel designed by the artist Alexander Beleschenko. It was inspired by a daguerreotype of the North West Porch of St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, which Ruskin used in his research into Venetian Gothic architecture.

51. The furniture in the meeting room was crafted by local furniture maker Jeremy Hall, of Peter Hall & Son in Staveley, Kendal.

52. On 10 January 1998, The Telegraph reported that plans to site a new library for the works of John Ruskin at Lancaster University (that's us!) were "bringing the city of the gondolas to the country of the black pudding".