Biography of John Ruskin

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Author John Ruskin Biography

Famous asOutspoken critic of apartheid
Born on07 October 1931
Born inKlerksdorp, South Africa
NationalitySouth Africa
Works & AchievementsSouth African Activist, Noble Prize winner, Former Archbishop of Cape Town

Born in London, John Ruskin is mainly known for his magnificent work in the field of art, literature and architecture. A fervent art critic, Ruskin is also remembered for his ideas of socialism and immense contribution towards promoting Gothic architecture. John Ruskin gained popularity as a social critic and a poet in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

John Ruskin Childhood & Education

John Ruskin was born in London on 8 February 1819. His father was a wine importer who owned a company that later became known as Allied Domecq. The only child of his father, John Ruskin began his education at home and then enrolled in to King’s College in London. Later John Ruskin took admission in Christ Church, Oxford University to further his studies, where he won the Newdigate Prize for his Poetry. Though he was never an outstanding performer, the University granted him a voluntary fourth class degree.
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John Ruskin Initial Work & Controversies

John first wrote for an Architecture Magazine in 1836 – 1837 which was published as The Poetry of Architecture and soon afterwards, in 1839, his work the Transactions of the Meteorological Society was published. His initial work was not of much significance and went unnoticed, before his first major writing Modern Painters came in 1843.

The work, which was published under the unspecified identity, became promoter of modern landscape painters – specifically J.M.W. Turner, who in Ruskin’s opinion, were far greater than several old artists of that era. As an artist, John himself was very close to nature and his painting often revolved around his observation of nature, such as clouds, trees seas and water.

The remark brought him under fire and drew criticism from the people who had discarded Turner’s work as meaningless mess. The remark was taken as an affront to the great artists of that era. However, According to Ruskin – unlike old masters – Turner expressed a more thoughtful knowledge of truths of the nature.

In another controversy, Ruskin was alleged to have destroyed several paintings of Turner, who was a member of the Royal academy and a friend ofJohn Ruskin – because of their obscene theme. However, the recent findings have proved these claims wrong. After working upon nature for sometime, John shifted to the subject of architect. His two major writings on the subject were The Seven Lamps of Architecture and The Stones of Venice, where he strongly viewed that architecture can not be separated from integrity. These writings were published in his name and became his road to the fame. John Ruskin’s Marriage & Personal Life

In 1848, John Ruskin married Effie Gray – the girl he had fancied and wrote his early novel The King of the Golden River dedicating to her. The marriage was unsuccessful though, and finally broke up in 1854. Later, Effie Gray – who had demanded divorce on the ground of his so – called impotency – married the artist John Everett Millais.

John Ruskin’s and Millais association goes long back in later 1840’s, when one of Millais’s paintings Christ in the House of his Parents came in to controversies. Ruskin defended Millais until the intimacy between Effie Gray and Millais was disclosed.

Millais, who was a co founder of the Pre – Raphaelite Brotherhood – an organization highly influenced by the ideas of John Ruskin – denounced the organization, while the other Pre – Raphaelite artists continued to receive financial and written support from Ruskin.

Ruskin again fell in love. Rose La Touche, a deeply religious girl met him in 1858. After a long period of ambivalence, she finally rejected him in 1872 and died soon after. Devastated by her death, John Ruskin slipped into a state of mental illness and despair and suffered several breakdowns.

John Ruskin as critic & Socialist

In 1885, John Ruskin established the School of Art in Sidney Street, Cambridge which later became known as Anglia Ruskin University. Meanwhile John Ruskin continued to write critical reviews of the art work exhibited every year.

John Ruskin advocated the Gothic style for modern culture and urged architectures to adopt the same. John Ruskin had great respect for old buildings and he strongly advocated the conservation of the ancient buildings.

A fervent critic, Ruskin renounced art criticism in later years of 1850’s and embarked upon commentary on politics. His idea of socialism matured during this period and he gave away most of his assets after his father’s death as he believed that a rich person can not be a socialist. In 1870, John Ruskine stablished a charity Guild of St George and supported it with his art collection worth millions.

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During this period, John Ruskin was a visiting faculty and became the first Slade Professor of Fine Arts in 1869 at the Working Men’s College, London.

Ruskin’s outlook in socialism played a key role in the growth of Christian socialism. John Ruskin believed that the best deserves first. That is, the employment system should be such that the only best worker gets employed first, rather than one who offers to do the work at half the rate. John Ruskin endorsed the fixed wage system, which, in his opinion sustains the quality work and promote a healthy competition.

John Ruskin’s Later Life

In his later life, John Ruskin continued writing contemptuous reviews and articles that often made him face legal consequences. In one of such cases, he was sued by James McNeill Whistler in 1878. Though John Ruskin was ordered to pay only a small amount as compensation, Ruskin’s reputation was badly affected after the incident.

During the Aesthetic movement and Impressionism Ruskin estranged from the modern art world and began writing on other issues and continuing his support humanitarian movements, such as Home Arts and Industries Association. In his later life, Ruskin lived in Brantwood, a house on the shores of Coniston, where the Ruskin Museum was established in 1901 after his death on 20 January 1900.

John Ruskin Timeline :

  • 1819 – John Ruskin was born in London on 8 February 1819.
  • 1836 – John first wrote for an Architecture Magazine in 1836 – 1837.
  • 1839 – The Transactions of the Meteorological Society was published.
  • 1843 – His first major writing Modern Painters came in 1843.
  • 1848 – John Ruskin married Effie Gray.
  • 1854 – The marriage broke up in 1854.
  • 1858 – John Ruskin met Rose La Touche in 1858.
  • 1869 – Ruskin became the first Slade Professor of Fine Arts in 1869.
  • 1870 – John Ruskin established a charity Guild of St. George.
  • 1878 – John Ruskin was sued by James McNeill Whistler in 1878.
  • 1885 – John Ruskin established the School of Art in Sidney.
  • 1900 – John Ruskin died on 20 January 1900.
  • 1901 – Ruskin Museum was established.

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