A Study of John Ruskin
|John Ruskin, 1863|
After an evening at my local cinema watching Mike Leigh’s new film ‘Mr. Turner’ ‘starring the likes of Timothy Spall as the lead J.M.W. Turner, I returned home intrigued about the biopic I had just witnessed, and the characters seen. In particular the character of John Ruskin had intrigued me. Although his appearance on screen was fleeting, his pronounced lisp, eccentric ways and apparent reverence of Turner had me captivated. Partly this was due to the fact I had already come across John Ruskin – and his work ‘The Stones of Venice’ but had not encountered him as young man or indeed I knew nothing of him but his work concerning architecture and art criticism. The character presented on screen seemed very different from his style of work and nothing like one would have imagined. It was entertaining to be presented suddenly with the figure of Ruskin in his brown overcoat and cornflower blue necktie – I was later to find out was somewhat his trademark as he felt that particular shade of blue complimented his eyes well. However on researching the film after the screening it became apparent through a particular article written by Philip Hoare for ‘The Guardian online’, that Ruskin had been crudely misrepresented -“Ruskin, played by Joshua McGuire, is a simpering Blackadderish caricature of an art intellectual: a lisping, red-headed, salon fop.” Hoare’s reveal that the character of Ruskin presented on screen in ‘Mr. Turner’ was indeed nothing like the man himself only intrigued me further. I now wished find out who Ruskin was, if not this “lisping, red-headed, salon fop”(Hoare) then who?
|Ruskin's painting of|
Christ Church college, Oxford
Ruskin suffered from various nervous breakdowns eventually culminating in his insanity. The 'last straw' as they say was his love affair with Rose La Touche, which much like his marriage to Effie, was to end in disaster. Ruskin fell in love with Rose when he was in his forties and her scarcely ten years old. Though waiting for her to come of age her parents were still horrified by this prospect. Banned from ever seeing her Ruskin took drastic measures to ensure he did, at points chasing"...her carriage through London, [and even] confronting her in the Royal Academy [...] handing her a forbidden love letter."(Hoare) However Rose died aged 24, psychiatrically disturbed and suffering from anaemia. Ruskin's grief led him to hire mediums to try to contact her spirit. His insanity grew steadily worse, ending with him believing that him and Rose had indeed been wed, with Joan of Arc as their bridesmaid.
|A Study of a Kingfisher, John Ruskin.|
Although Ruskin's story ended in tragedy, with him eventually passing away on the 20th of January 1900, his legacy lives on. Not only through his students at Oxford University where he taught - his students included the likes of Oscar Wilde- but also through his art criticism, which is still widely read and appreciated today. Ruskin also helped form artists of his era, for instance his praise of Turner, and helped to shape the artists and art critics of today. Not only did he do so through his volumes of critical work, but his own extraordinary paintings and drawings some of which can be seen hanging in The Tate, London. His work on architecture also helped to shape Victorian England, bringing about a gothic revival. His influence on the arts seems to be as steadfast as the Oxford College now founded in his name.
http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/authors/ruskin/pm/prologue.html (George P. Landow)