John Ruskin, Cloud effect over Coniston Old Man

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture

An annual lecture hosted by The Ruskin, featuring internationally distinguished scholars

Ryuzo Mikimoto devoted his life to the study of John Ruskin. He founded the Ruskin Library of Tokyo in 1934, filling it with a collection of Ruskin's works acquired during visits to England.

During the Second World War the Library's collection was stored at the Mikimoto Pearl Farm from which his family had gained their wealth, saving the works from damage by bombing. After Ryuzo Mikimoto's death in 1971, his relatives worked to reopen the library, with readers returning from 1984.

The first Mikimoto Lecture took place at Lancaster University in 1995, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the reopening. The lecture, 'Ruskin To-Day', was given by James S. Dearden, Curator of the Ruskin Galleries at Bembridge School.

A generous donation commemorating Ryuzo Mikimoto from the Trustees of the Ruskin Library of Tokyo in 2009 has enabled the lecture to become an annual event.

Past Lectures

Explore The Ruskin's past Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lectures below, or view the whole playlist here.

2017 - Ruskin and His Critics

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2017 was held on 16 November in Lancaster University's Cavendish Lecture Theatre.

Speaker: Dr Nicholas Shrimpton (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University)

Title: 'Ruskin and His Critics'

How was John Ruskin criticised? And how did he respond to criticism? Was he arrogantly indifferent or morbidly sensitive? With particular attention to his work in the 1850s (especially the last three volumes of Modern Painters and his Academy Notes), this lecture argues that response to opposition was a key feature of Ruskin's mode of discourse.

Nicholas Shrimpton is an Emeritus Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University, where he was previously a Fellow & Tutor in English and Vice-Principal. His writing on Ruskin includes the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on his work (2002, 15th ed.), ‘Ruskin and the Aesthetes’ in Dinah Birch's (1999) Ruskin and the Dawn of the Modern, 'Ruskin and ‘War’' (Guild of St George, 2014) and his essays on ‘Italy’ and ‘Politics and Economics’ in The Cambridge Companion to John Ruskin (2015).  At the time of this lecture, he was working on the new OWC edition of the poems of William Blake.

2016 - Ruskin: Language and Architecture

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2016 was held on 17 November in Lancaster University's Management School (Lecture Theatre 1).

Speaker: Professor William Whyte (University of Oxford)

Title: 'Ruskin: Language and Architecture'

St Mark’s in Venice, John Ruskin once wrote, should be thought of "less as a temple wherein to pray, than as itself a Book of Common Prayer". But what does it mean to say that a building is like a book? What does this say about buildings? What does it say about books? In this lecture, Professor William Whyte explores why it was that Ruskin and his contemporaries so often saw architecture as a kind of language, and what this insight meant for the ways that Victorians built and wrote.

2015 - Ruskin and Forgetting

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2015 was held on 19 November in Lancaster University's Management School (Lecture Theatre 1).

Speaker: Professor Francis O'Gorman (University of Leeds)

Title: 'Ruskin and Forgetting'

This lecture considers the place of forgetting in John Ruskin's sustained writing on memory. Thinking in particular about Ruskin's conception of architecture as a way of remembering, Professor Francis O'Gorman explores what it might mean to be remembered only in pieces or inaccurately. Ruskin preferred these to being misunderstood, which was what he frequently found true of himself. Forgetfulness was, in turn, clarifying for Ruskin even if it was, to an extent, falsifying. And this poses an intriguing question now for the reader of Ruskin, in all his extensive multiplicity. Do we understand him better if we forget a lot?

2014 - Ruskin and the Point of Failure

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2014 was held on 20 November in Lancaster University's Frankland Lecture Theatre.

Speaker: Professor Dinah Birch (University of Liverpool)

Title: 'Ruskin and the Point of Failure'

What does it mean to succeed? For John Ruskin, an acceptance of the necessity of failure and imperfection was essential to the fulfilment of human potential. In this lecture, Professor Dinah Birch explores the roots of this conviction, placing Ruskin's ideas in the wider context of 19th century religious and cultural history, and arguing that his hostility towards ideals of perfection was among the most influential and stimulating features of his thought.

2013 - Ruskin among the giants

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2013 was held on 14 November in Lancaster University's Cavendish Lecture Theatre.

Speaker: Professor John Batchelor (Newcastle University)

Title: 'Ruskin among the giants'

John Ruskin (1819-1900) had a life span just slightly shorter than that of Queen Victoria. He and she were the two giants who spanned the whole of his age, and some of his most productive and fruitful interactions and disagreements were with the artists and writers who guided the central Victorian cultural energies, including Carlyle, Rossetti, Millais, Holman Hunt, Tennyson, Browning, Matthew Arnold, John Stuart Mill, Burne-Jones and G.F. Watts.

Ruskin's earliest modelling was from men who were older and in his eyes stronger, starting with his own father, John James. His dependent relationship with his father helped to shape his feelings about his first heroes: Wordsworth, Turner and, in a different way, Carlyle, who as a personal friend powerfully influenced the young Ruskin. Later, as a major critic, Ruskin became a father figure himself to the young Pre-Raphaelites, although his interaction with Millais was famously troubled and resulted in the end of Ruskin's disastrous marriage with Effie Gray. The great artists of the past whom he discovered as he worked on the successive volumes of Modern Painters became further giants in his landscape, though not consistently; Michelangelo became a contentious figure in his later thinking, while Veronese and Tintoretto caused him to reconsider his earlier resistance to the Renaissance as whole. As Ruskin’s enthusiasms and crusades expanded in their range after the 1870s, his position among the giants became affected by his own emotional storms, to a point where he had difficulty separating his thoughts from his relationships and circumstances.

2012 - Ruskin, Engels and the City

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2012 was held on 29 November in Lancaster University's Faraday Lecture Theatre.

Speaker: Dr Tristram Hunt, MP

Title: 'Ruskin, Engels and the City'

The philosophies of Friedrich Engels and John Ruskin were both powerfully shaped by the Victorian city. In its filth, vulgarity and rampant individualism, they found a telling symbol of all the failings of industrial capitalism. All that was wrong with 'laissez-faire' society could be found in 1840s Manchester. But their competing visions of a socialist alternative entailed very different futures for city life: for Engels, modernity and suburbia; for Ruskin, preservation and urban density. In their blistering prose and inspiring polemics, they offered two ideals of civic socialism which continue to influence urban debate today.

2011 - John's Gospel

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2011 was held on 1 December in Lancaster University's Management School (Lecture Theatre 1).

Speaker: Professor Michael Wheeler

Title: 'John's Gospel'

For this lecture we welcomed back the founding Director of the Ruskin Library project and research programme at Lancaster University, Professor Michael Wheeler, who in 1999 completed his 26 years as an academic at Lancaster and moved to work on the Chawton House Library project in Hampshire. In this illustrated lecture based on research for his recent book, St John and the Victorians (2011), Prof. Wheeler considers John Ruskin’s imaginative response to some of the best known stories in the New Testament - the marriage at Cana, Jesus and the woman at the well, and the raising of Lazarus - and works of art based on these stories. Ruskin’s personal motto was inspired by a verse from John’s Gospel, and when he died in 1900 a working man sent a wreath with an epitaph taken from the prologue: "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John."

This lecture complemented the theme of our 2011 - 2012 Ruskin Seminar series: ‘Ruskin and the Sacred’.

Click here to go to a recording of our 2010 lecture: No wealth but life: Ruskin and Cultural Value.

2010 - 'No wealth but life': Ruskin and Cultural Value

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2010 was held on 18 November in Lancaster University's Management School (Lecture Theatre 1).

Speaker: Professor Robert Hewison (City, University of London)

Title: 'No wealth but life': Ruskin and Cultural Value

This lecture was held around the 150th anniversary of the publication of John Ruskin's Unto This Last. It recalls the financial crisis that prompted Ruskin to begin writing about economics, explores his reading of orthodox economists, and traces the development of Ruskin's ideas about the true nature of 'value'. The modern theory of Cultural Value, Prof. Robert Hewison argues, has been developed as a response to the pressure on cultural institutions to justify themselves in utilitarian terms - terms that Ruskin would recognize, and deplore. Hewison suggests that the demands of modern public management, as represented by the proposed structure of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), call for the development of a parallel theory of academic value.

2009 - Ruskin and Rossetti: a queer friendship

The Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture of 2009 was held on 4 November in Lancaster University's Management School (Lecture Theatre 1).

Speaker: Professor Barrie Bullen (Professor Emeritus, University of Reading)

Title: 'Ruskin and Rossetti: a queer friendship'

In this lecture, Professor Barrie Bullen details John Ruskin's often demanding patronage of Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddall. He also unpicks the strands of a complicated web woven around Rossetti's artistic development during the 1850s and 1860s, and reveals how the chronology of paintings and private lives can be closely interlinked.