The Life of John Ruskin eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 364 pages of information about The Life of John Ruskin.

It was with this intention that he wrote the “Elements of Drawing” in 1856, supplemented by the “Elements of Perspective” in 1859; the illustrations for the book were characteristic sketches by the author, beautifully cut by his pupil, W.H.  Hooper, who was one of a band of engravers and copyists formed by these classes at the Working Men’s College.  In spite of the intention not to make artists by his teaching, Ruskin could not prevent some of his pupils from taking up art as a profession; and those who did so became, in their way, first-rate men.  George Allen as a mezzotint engraver, Arthur Burgess as a draughtsman and wood-cutter, John Bunney as a painter of architectural detail, W. Jeffery as an artistic photographer, E. Cooke as a teacher, William Ward as a facsimile copyist, have all done work whose value deserves acknowledgment, all the more because it was not aimed at popular effect, but at the severe standard of the greater schools.  But these men were only the side issue of the Working Men’s College enterprise.  Its real result was in the proof that the labouring classes could be interested in Art; and that the capacity shown by the Gothic workman had not entirely died out of the nation, in spite of the interregnum, for a full century, of manufacture.  And the experience led Ruskin forward to wider views on the nature of the arts, and on the duties of philanthropic effort and social economy.



It was in the year 1855 that Ruskin first published “Notes on the Royal Academy and other Exhibitions.”  He had been so often called upon to write his opinion of Pre-Raphaelite pictures, either privately or to the newspapers, or to mark his friends’ catalogues, that he found at last less trouble in printing his notes once for all.  The new plan was immediately popular; three editions of the pamphlet were called for between June 1 and July 1.  Next year he repeated the “Notes” and six editions were sold.

In spite of a dissentient voice here and there, he was really by that time recognised as the leading authority upon taste in painting.  He was trusted by a great section of the public, who had not failed to notice how completely he and his friends were winning the day.  The proof of it was in the fact that they were being imitated on all sides; Ruskinism in writing and Pre-Raphaelitism in painting were becoming fashionable.

But at the same time the movement gave rise to the Naturalist-landscape school, a group of painters who threw overboard the traditions of Turner and Prout, Constable and Harding, and the rest, just as the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren threw over the Academical masters.  For such men their study was their picture; they devised tents and huts in wild glens and upon waste moors, and spent weeks in elaborating their details directly from nature, instead of painting at home from sketches on the spot.

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The Life of John Ruskin from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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