George Allen of Sunnyside

21 April – 29 July 2007

Publishers are occasionally the subject of books, but rarely of exhibitions. This exhibition commemorated the centenary of the death of George Allen, a man who rose from humble beginnings to create a publishing house under the encouragement of John Ruskin.

When George Allen (1832-1907) joined John Ruskin’s evening drawing classes at the Working Men’s College in 1854, he was working as an apprentice carpenter for his uncle in Clerkenwell, London. Enthused and encouraged by Ruskin, who saw in him an “innate disposition to art,” Allen declined employment with William Morris’ decorative arts firm in order to devote himself to Ruskin’s service, as his assistant and most reliable engraver. From 1870, he also became Ruskin’s publisher, and in 1874 he built ‘Sunnyside,’ a large house in Orpington, Kent, which acted as a storage area for Ruskin’s past works and future publications, up to the Library Edition of 1903-12 (completed by Allen’s family).


John Ruskin: Study of leaves

To commemorate the centenary of his death (5 September 1907), Paul Dawson curated this exhibition to provide a comprehensive survey of George Allen’s life and work as Ruskin’s assistant and publisher. Together with much little-known archive material, Allen’s drawings and engravings were shown alongside some of Ruskin’s drawings and watercolours, several of which were formerly owned by Allen himself. As well as material from the Whitehouse Collection and Dawson's own collection, exhibits were loaned to us by the Guild of St George (Ruskin Collection, Museums Sheffield) and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, who provided examples from George Allen’s extensive mineral collection.

 
John Ruskin: Leaf studies - Bramble.

For more information about George Allen, visit www.georgeallen.co.uk.