John Ruskin

Critical driver behind the Arts & Crafts Movement

Born into the close-knit family of a prosperous wine merchant in London, England, Ruskin attended Christ Church College at Oxford, graduating in 1843 with an MA. He became known as a brilliant critic of landscape painting and a champion of the works of the painter J.M.W. Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. He later became chair of Fine Arts at Oxford University. Ruskin is viewed by many as a member of a group of men who began the Arts & Crafts movement in England during the latter half of the 19th century. This movement was the forerunner of the American Arts & Crafts movement.

Ruskin's contributions included his avowed dislike for classical works in buildings & art and his substitution of the Gothic with its asymmetry and roughness as the ideal for new art. Along with William Morris, he was critical of the new industrialization taking place in Europe and America. Ruskin's most radical idea was his total rejection of any machine produced products. He characterized all machine made objects as "dishonest." He believed, along with Morris, that handwork and craftsmanship brought dignity to labor. He further felt that the factory/industrial work of the age disrupted the natural rhythms of life by imposing artificial hours and conditions on workers. To this end he founded a utopian Arts & Crafts community in 1871.

Ruskin is most famous for his two books; "The Seven Lamps of Architecture" (1849) and "The Stones of Venice" (1853). These works established the criteria for judging the value of art(s) for several generations in both Britain and America. For more information on John Ruskin follow the links listed below.


The Desire of My Eyes: The Life & Work of John Ruskin Wolfgang Kemp. Holztbrinck -- Print On Demand, 1992.
Ruskin's Artists Ashgate Publishing. 2000
John Ruskin (Very Interesting People) Robert Hewison. 2007
John Ruskin: The Argument of the Eye Robert Hewison. 2007


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