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John Ruskin 1819 - 1900

 

Ruskin was the greatest British art critic and social commentator of the Victorian Age, indeed the greatest Victorian bar Victoria herself, it could be said. His ideas inspired the Arts and Crafts Movement and the founding of the National Trust, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Labour Movement. He fiercely attacked the worst aspects of industrialization, and actively promoted art education and museums for the working classes. His prophetic statements on environmental issues speak to our generation as well as to his own.

Born on 8 February 1819, the son of a prosperous sherry importer, Ruskin became a published poet and writer on geology by the age of fifteen, by which time he knew the Bible intimately. Throughout his life he undertook extended tours of Britain and Europe providing material for literary works such as The Poetry of Architecture, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, The Stones of Venice, Mornings in Florence, and The Bible of Amiens. He was also an accomplished artist, and champion of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Ruskin felt that arts and crafts brought dignity to his fellow human beings, and to society as a whole. He despised Industrialization as dehumanising. His view of life was, like William Morris, an artistic Socialism, influential at a time before Marx was widely known. He did much to open up the arts and the heritage of the country to ordinary working men and women.

John Ruskin spent much of his childhood in Croydon and South London, and visited often as an adult. Both Ruskin's parents are buried in Shirley, Croydon, at St. John's Parish Church. As an inspiration to the early Labour Movement, it was natural for his name to be borne by Croydon's fledgling Trade Union and Labour Centre.

 

For more on the life of John Ruskin, try
Lancaster University Ruskin Programme

or
Ruskin.org

or
John Ruskin at Wikipedia

Visit John Ruskin's home,
Brantwood

Ruskin To-Day - The John Ruskin Centenary

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