John Ruskin, c. 1863 by W. & D. Downey. Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft, Jr. Manuscript Collection, Delaware Art Museum
John Ruskin
Date: English architectural critic and author, 1819–1900
School: Pre-Raphaelite
Biography: John Ruskin was the leading art critic of the Victorian period. Viewed by his doting parents as a bit of a child prodigy, his artistic skills were developed by a series of drawing masters employed by his father. As an adult his drawings often served his written work - a kind of visual note-taking. He published over 250 works on art and literary criticism, politics and social reform. His Modern Painters (volume one, 1843) changed the direction of British art, championing the work of J.M. W. Turner and arguing for ‘truth to nature’ as the principal towards which all art must aspire. He was particularly influential to the young Pre-Raphaelites, whom he championed in the face of negative critical review. Later in life his writings became more focused on social and political issues. He advocated for the importance of art – and beauty in the working class life, equating beauty with morality. He taught drawing (assisted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti) at the Working Men’s College beginning in the mid-1850s. In 1869 he became the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University. In 1871 he founded the Guild of St. George, a utopian community, near Sheffield. The same year he purchased Brantwood in the English Lake District, where he lived primarily from 1872 onwards.