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John Ruskin: Artist and Observer Paperback – March 5, 2014
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Curators Christopher Newall and Conal Shields along with contributors Christopher Baker and Ian Jeffrey have added tremendous substance, meaning, and insight to this "most ambitious exhibit". It showcases 140 of the most significant and known works by the prolific Ruskin (1819-1900). Perhaps for the first time, visitors to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa (Feb.11-May 14, 2014) and those attending the exhibit at the National Gallery of Scotland until Sept. 28, 2014, will obtain the most complete and accurate overview of Ruskin's highly unique and diversified career. Ruskin's reputation and personal involvement was enhanced by his dedication to art production and his lifelong appreciation for subject matter which intrigued him. Ruskin's art became his vivid pictorial commentary on landscape, architecture, the preservation of monuments, and inspirations to be gained from previous teachers and artists in the history of art and culture.
In analyzing Ruskin's drawings, the curators define Ruskin's unique output and agendas as that of lyricism and fluidity, meticulous detail, jewel-like colors, the result of an "intense and passionate artistic impulse" and his "prime medium of expression and intellectual development".
Throughout his life, John Ruskin saw art as an escape from the confines of his Victorian existence. At the same time, he viewed art making as a "note of fact" concerning thinking, understanding, and educating others about "natural philosophy, the earth sciences and geology."
Ruskin's highly skilled draftsmanship and his love of sketching provided him with the greatest source of familiarity and fascination in recording his own experiences, visions and thoughts in highly expressible form. The cultivation of "a constant awareness of all that lay before him" made no subject and no landscape exempt from his reverential and carefully kept journals and travel logs. He equated meticulous detail in the swift gathering and recording of data with the preservation and conservation of the subject under his study. He created an art with a varied purpose for discovery, interpretation, enjoyment, teaching tool, and "poetic commentary." At the same time, Ruskin never intended to be a "professional artist." Rather, "private sensibilities" translated into an enthusiasm for what he personally believed to be beautiful and noteworthy of analysis. For example, he was most passionate about the historic and crumbling monuments of Venice, the majestic Alps, and the quaintness of French cities. A significant portion of this exhibit also examines Ruskin's close communion with his Scottish heritage. He viewed Scotland as a land of infinite "variety and wonder" with "sublime mountainous landscape".
An important theme of this exhibit emphasizes that John Ruskin's love of observing and recording nature were directly inspired by his emotional responses to the process of art production. His "highly emotive" personality produced personalized and unique perspectives. Ruskin's art continuously granted highest importance to "seeing and feeling as an artist". Each of his scientific inquires completed in the form of a drawing, a painting, a watercolor or an etching was done with "great exactness and concentration". At the same time, his art was an "emotive view of land, history and culture." He chose to equate, define, and celebrate both the personal view of nature and the objective view of nature without "boundaries." He rejected nothing from it. This all-encompassing view and freedom to explore the natural environment remained Ruskin's significant means for achieving a necessary and "intense scrutiny of the mysteries of nature."
The exhibit also emphasizes that Ruskin's "sensitivity" as an artist made him appreciate the power and influence of other artists as teachers. He greatly admired the work of J.M.W. Turner , the "affective power of color" in Titian and Tintoretto, and the work of the Northern Renaissance artist known for his distinctive art and precise nature studies, Albrecht Dürer.
Additionally, the exhibit points out that Ruskin approached the new medium of photography with considerable enthusiasm when recognizing its utility and ability to "mirror or capture nature" in all of its details and subtleties. In his quest for truth, Ruskin used photography as a means of enhancing the reality which he wished to convey and record. Between 1845 and 1858, Ruskin had amassed a collection of more than 320 daguerreotypes.
He claimed that the daguerreotype possessed an unexpected disclosure for fixing and focusing on the minute aspects of an image that could not be achieved by an ordinary and shorthand sketch. For him, it was ideally suited to static and detailed subject matter under his careful observation. Examples of such subjects presented in this exhibit include daguerreotypes of architectural details, monuments, and landscapes made throughout his frequent and consistent travels to Italy, Switzerland, and France.
Ultimately, an important aspect of this exhibit substantiates Ruskin's creativity and facility with a variety of media.
The exhibit highlights his courage to embrace a modern method and distinctive style of working despite the skepticism and criticism of his age. In so doing, John Ruskin engaged in practical and accurate methods for understanding the world as a way to conserve it nostalgically for future generations.
I grew up with a bit of a dislike of various Victorian Artists ( some but not all )
I bought a number of art books and the booksellers I frequented would have a copy of Ruskin's complete works in 30 volumes or so. I was never tempered
My interest is in Master Drawings.
Some who were around before Ruskin where are, Rossetti and the Pre - Raphaelite movement influenced him.
William Blake. 1757- 1829
John Constable 1776-1827
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882.
One reviewer said Ruskin couldn't draw.
That is his opinion.
However to understand an artist you must set the artist in the context of their times.
The age of Blake, Constable and Turner was in the past.
Ruskin had a deep love for Turner. At various stages of his life he owned some 300 works by Turner ( mainly watercolours ). Oxford Companion Turner page 275 second column at bottom of page
He bequested some 100 drawings and watercolours to the Ashmolean Oxford- see details on major collections of Turner at the back of this book.
After Turner's death he offered and was accepted by the National Gallery London to sort through and classify some 10,000 Turner drawings and Watercolours ( see the Ruskin article mentioned above)
So Ruskin was deeply influenced by Turner.
You see it is some of the works but not in others. Remember he was reproding to Pre- Raphaelitism and had a Pre Gothic vision.
What he really loved were early churches or Gothic Ruins, or elements of Gothic Architecture.
Some of the drawings show his mastery of third demensional space-see especially :
No 18. The Piazzetta and St Mark's Venice, 1835
A number of drawings are of architecture - mainly Gothic.
Venice and it's architecture features including Byzantine elements.
Then there are a moderate number of watercolours that remind me of Turner, they aren't Turner's but Ruskin has refracted all he has seen in Turner and given his very personal take on the scenes.
Look at the ratings, remember Ruskin was sorting through some 10,000 Turner Drawings and Watercolours. Turner's work is both vast, and very variable. That is not a judgement on quality. Like Rembrandt Turner could bring the profoundest judgement to bear in a composition.
Style was in the service of profound composition.
Also like Rembrandt Turner was always experimenting.
Ruskin very hit those dizzying heights, but off hand I cannot think of an English artist of his time that did.
This book is a visual feast of excellent drawings and watercolours.
I warmly commend it.
It is hard when you are starting out to get a feel for drawings and watercolours.
They are frail and light sensitive.
If there is an exhibition in your area, go to it if you can. There is nothing like seeing the drawings and watercolours face to face.
As they are frail and light sensitive they usually are stored away for 10-30 years before the next show. Yes some are lent to this exhibition and that but you would see this exhibition or any of it's mates in a hurry. To preserve the drawings and watercolours they are nurtured with care.so number one, try to see some drawings in the fresh
You may wait for an exhibition of an artist you like,
You may be lucky, but to be honest you are likely to wait a long time.
Yes the big names come around frequently. In part that is due to
The great generosity of the World's great print rooms. They have to very carefully manage there loans, because there are both many requests and their is the issue of the fragility of paper and it's light sensitivity.
So, personally ( for what it is worth ) I would strongly suggest if you have an interest in drawings go to those that are near by and that you can afford to get to.
Use every exhibition as to learn to train your eye.
( yes background knowledge helps, but learning to slow down and just look, draw in the details, see how they relate or don't relate to each other.)
The same points go for reading catalogues.
I have spent 20-25 years looking at thousands of master drawings in books
My loves are Rembrandt, Leonardo, Durer, Raphael.
The names don't really matter.
If all drawings looked like Rembrandt's or Leonardo's I would be deeply visually bored.
I sort to see every drawing I could face to face will working in the UK. It was a sizeable number.
For those who got the wrong book.john Ruskin
The Elements of Drawing
Illustrated edition with notes by Bernard Dunstan
The Herbert Press London 159 pp
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