John Ruskin

1819 - 1900

Critic, artist and social reformer. Born in London, the son of a Scottish wine and sherry importer, who helped develop his romantic ideals through visits to the likes of Sir Walter Scott's home, Abbotsford House, six years after the author's death, and appreciation of the paintings of J.M.W. Turner (1775 - 1851), whose works he was later to catalogue. He was educated privately and travelled extensively to within the UK, including to visit relatives in Perth and around Europe. He studied at Christ Church College, Oxford, but was already painting and writing art criticism and poetry. In 1848, he married Effie Gray (1828-97) in Perth. The couple lived in Mayfair, but the marriage was unhappy. Ruskin had influenced the Pre-Raphaelite movement and became close to one of that group, John Everett Millais (1829-96). Effie became closer, asking Ruskin for a divorce in 1854 and marrying Millais the following year. In 1869, he was appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford. Two years later he founded the Guild of St. George, a utopian society which railed against Victorian industrialisation.

Ruskin published a large and eclectic range of works including a five-volume monograph Modern Painters (1843-60), Giotto and his Works in Padua (1854), Unto This Last (1860), a controversial work on political economy which went on to influence Gandhi. In the 1870s, he wrote guides about his travels to Italy, and then Fiction, Fair and Foul (1880), which discussed the writings of Lord Byron (1788 - 1824), Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) and William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850), and finally his autobiography, Praeterita (1889).

His health declined and he died at his home on the shores of Coniston Water in the English Lake District and was buried in the nearby churchyard. His reputation was assured as one of the greatest Victorians, influential across numerous fields, including art, architecture, literary criticism, morality and philosophy.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better