John Ruskin

1819-1900. Victorian author and critic. Born into a wealthy Evangelical family, he trained early for the ministry. His memorization of large portions of the Bible affected his opinions and tastes permanently. His father, a wine merchant, took his son on continental tours and introduced him to beautiful landscapes, architecture, and art, which inspired in him a profound love of beauty. While at Oxford (1836-40) he won the Newdigate Prize for poetry and gave up his ministerial ambitions. The first period of his career was devoted to problems of art. Modern Painters (2 vols., 1843-46) was begun as a defense of the painter J.M.W. Turner; it accepted the principle that art is based on national and individual integrity and morality. Ruskin also defended the work of the Pre- Raphaelites. His interest in architecture is seen in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) and The Stones of Venice (1851-53), the latter maintaining that the Gothic architecture of Venice reflected national and domestic virtue, while Venetian Renaissance mirrored corruption.

Despite recurring mental illness during his last years, accentuated in part by an indifferent public and unhappy personal life, Ruskin wrote without much study in the area of political economy: The Political Economy of Art (1857), Unto This Last (1860), and Munera Pulveris (1862-67), which attacked the ugliness of industrial England. Other works include Sesame and Lilies (1865), The Crown of Wild Olive (1866), six volumes of his lectures on art delivered while he was Slade professor of fine arts at Oxford (1869-79, 1883-84), Fors Clavigera (letters to workmen), and his autobiography to Praeterita (1871-74).

His works were to influence the British Labour Party and such writers as William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, and D.H. Lawrence.

E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, The Works of John Ruskin (39 vols., 1903-12); E.T. Cook, The Life of Ruskin (2 vols., 1911); J. Evans, The Lamp of Beauty: Writings on Art by John Ruskin (1958); J.D. Rosenburg, The Darkening Glass (1961).