The study of natural sciences, particularly geology and botany, were critical to Ruskin’s thinking from his youth. Later in life Ruskin experimented with different forms of planting in the gardens he built at Brantwood, his home near Coniston. His gardens were as much places of beauty as they were places for experimentation, and Ruskin spent much of his time in these outdoor laboratories observing their natural processes.
The Whitehouse Collection contains the records of these moments in the form of Ruskin’s journals from his thirty years at Coniston, as well as artistic studies of natural objects from throughout his life. In addition, it contains many of Ruskin’s geological and scientific writings, scattered throughout his published works and private correspondence.
Alongside Ruskin’s writings about and artistic responses to the natural world, the Whitehouse Collection also contains sketches, studies and paintings of natural scenery by several other artists, including Joan Severn (1826–1924) and Arthur Severn (1824–1931), Susan Beever (1805–1893) and Albert Fleming (1846–1923). These artists inherited from Ruskin the belief that close observation of nature led to a deep understanding that was crucial for both the human imagination and the conservation of the natural world.