Discovering John Ruskin

It was criminal of me as an art history teacher to have neglected exposing my young students to the brilliance of John Ruskin. I discovered his writings and amazing life only a few years ago on a visit to Jackson, Wyoming's #NationalWildlifeMuseumofArt.


In last week's post, I referenced Mr. Ruskin as an artist, art critic, and social critic from the Victorian era. He was what we call today, an Influencer. His opinions exceeded the art world as he took on major issues of his time, a man with foresight concerning social injustices and conservation.

His books inspired a number of his contemporaries while making him a target for others, the same wealthy elite who vilified Charles Dickens for his writings which brought attention to the suffering of the poor. Unfortunately, Ruskin's books are less accessible today, and a new generation has less opportunity to benefit from his forward-thinking views and artistic accomplishments. I would like to make amends here by mentioning just a few of those influences on Victorian and Edwardian society.

We can hear the echo of his love of nature in the writings of John Muir. "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." Both men warned their generation to recognize nature as a limited resource.

For Ruskin, art was interwoven with his views on every aspect of life. While mathematicians may think linearly, Ruskin visualized ideas and sketched his thoughts. Art was life and life was art. Or should be.




I found his influence on Ghandi fascinating. The article linked here tells of a train trip the champion of non-violent protest took where he read Unto the Last. He explains in this article how his thinking was transformed by Mr. Ruskin's book. Reflections on Justice and Peace


Perhaps, it is equally irresponsible of me to present such a sketch of the man whose brilliance and scope of achievements requires volumes not mere blog posts. But I share what little I have learned to explain his influence on the foundations of the novel I've recently completed. His words inspired the art of #CarlRungius. Carl Rungius became the inspiration for my fictional artist, Luke Brennan, in the soon to be released, A Portrait of Dawn.


If this post had been written one year ago, I could celebrate his 200th birthday. Alas, I can only give him this small nod of appreciation for his gifts on his 201st birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Ruskin and thank you.


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