John Ruskin (1819-1900)

John Ruskin

John Ruskin, the greatest Victorian bar Victoria, was an artist, scientist, poet, environmentalist, philosopher, and, importantly here, the pre-eminent art critic of his time. He provided the impetus that gained respectability for the Pre-Raphaelites. Ruskin's letter to The Times in 1851, supporting the much-derided Pre-Raphaelites for their naturalism and truth to nature, marked a turning point in their perception by the public. In a second letter, he wrote that the Pre-Raphaelites might "lay the foundation of a school of art nobler than the world has seen for 300 years."

When, after this, Ruskin met the Pre-Raphaelites, he encouraged them in their ideals, acting as tutor, mentor, and generous supporter to Rossetti, Millais and Holman Hunt, as well as later artists in a similar spirit such as John Brett and John William Inchbold. He was a long-time friend of the children's illustrator Kate Greenaway, and also of the bird-painter H. S. Marks.

Ruskin taught Pre-Raphaelite style drawing at the Working Men's College in London for some years, enlisting Rossetti to teach figure and watercolour painting, and afterwards Ford Madox Brown to fill the same position. Afterwards, he left London, becoming Slade Professor of Art at Oxford (where there is an art college named after him) and then removing to the Lake District where he helped to start the Environmental Movement.

Ruskin's house at Coniston Lake

There used to be an atmospheric Ruskin Museum in Sheffield, now absorbed into a cultural centre.

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