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Ruskin, Johnlocked

(b London, Feb 8, 1819; d Brantwood, Cumbria, Jan 20, 1900).
  • Dinah Birch

English writer, draughtsman, painter and collector. He was one of the most influential voices in the art world of the 19th century. His early writings, eloquent in their advocation of J(oseph) M(allord) W(illiam) Turner and Pre-Raphaelitism and their enthusiasm for medieval Gothic, had a major impact on contemporary views of painting and architecture. His later and more controversial works focused attention on the relation between art and politics and were bitter in their condemnation of what he saw as the mechanistic materialism of his age.

1. Life and work.

Ruskin was the only child of prosperous Scottish parents living in London: his father was a wine merchant, his mother a spirited Evangelical devoted to her husband and son. Ruskin had a sequestered but happy childhood. He became an accomplished draughtsman (taught by Copley Fielding and James Duffield Harding) and acquired, through engravings encountered in Samuel Rogers’s poem Italy (1830), an early enthusiasm for Turner’s art. He was also an eager student of natural science, particularly geology. He travelled with his parents, seeing Venice for the first time in 1835, and he wrote copious poetry. However, his training in the classics was erratic, and his first experience of university study was of English literature. In 1836 he became one of the first students of Thomas Dale, Professor of English Literature and History at London University. In the same year he wrote an impassioned defence of Turner’s painting, which the artist dissuaded him from publishing.

In 1837 Ruskin went up to Christ Church, Oxford, where he found little profit or enjoyment in the formal courses of study but continued to draw, producing largely architectural and topographical work. It was in these years that he completed his first study of architecture, ‘The Poetry of Architecture’, published in the Architectural Magazine (1837–8). He also went on writing poetry, winning the Newdigate Prize in 1839. His strenuous attempts to win academic honours in Oxford, together with a frustrated passion for Adèle Domecq, an aristocratic French girl, led to a breakdown in 1840. Ruskin left Oxford (making a brief return to complete his degree 18 months later). Back in London, he began to learn more about Turner, studying the works collected by Benjamin Godfrey Windus. In June 1840 he met the artist for the first time. Continental travel helped Ruskin to recover health and broaden his experience of art and architecture; he pronounced himself ‘disgusted’ with St Peter’s, Rome, in a letter to his old tutor, Thomas Dale (cw, i, p. 380), and his lasting love for Venice dates from this period.

On returning to England in June 1841 Ruskin began to find his vocation as art critic. It was rooted in his admiration for Turner’s art. Among the paintings bought by the Ruskin family at this time is Richmond Hill and Bridge, Surrey (c. 1831; London, BM). Another trip abroad, when Ruskin saw for himself the subjects of Turner’s Swiss drawings, was followed by a major work of art criticism: the first volume of Modern Painters, published anonymously in 1843. It was well received. In 1846 a second volume appeared. This book also reflected what Ruskin had learnt through travel, for a further journey through Europe in the summer and autumn of 1845 had inspired a new interest in medieval painting and architecture. The second volume of Modern Painters expresses a wider knowledge of European art than Ruskin had been able to command in 1843 and makes little mention of modern painters—or of Turner.

In 1848 Ruskin married Euphemia Chalmers Gray (‘Effie’), a Scottish girl he had known since she was a child. The marriage was never consummated and ended in 1854, when Effie left Ruskin to marry the painter John Everett Millais, who had been painting Ruskin’s portrait. Nevertheless Ruskin’s six years as an unhappily married man were busy and productive. In The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) he extended the claims he had made for a vital connection between aesthetic and spiritual concerns in painting to the history of European architecture. In 1851 he became the public champion of the Pre-Raphaelites, as he had previously been of Turner, writing to The Times (13 and 30 May; cw, xii, pp. 319–35) on their behalf and publishing the pamphlet Pre-Raphaelitism. He established sympathetic contact with Dante Gabriel Rossetti (see Rossetti family §(1)), Millais and Burne-Jones, Sir Edward. Although he was later to become estranged from Millais and Rossetti, Burne-Jones remained his friend. Ruskin lived and worked in Venice for a large part of his married life, and during this period his second major work of criticism was published: The Stones of Venice (1851–3). After the annulment of his marriage, Ruskin worked on the third and fourth volumes of Modern Painters (1856). The work had broadened greatly in scope and reference, and Ruskin’s increasingly political interests were reflected in The Political Economy of Art (1857). He was also actively involved in the design, decorative scheme and construction of the Oxford Museum of Natural History (1855–61; now University Museum) by Deane & Woodward: the design of the building was inspired by Veronese Gothic, and Ruskin described it as ‘quite the noblest thing ever done from my teaching’. Soon after, he began to lose the Evangelical Christian faith that he had inherited from his parents. Following Turner’s death, Ruskin, who had declined to be an executor, worked voluntarily in 1857 and 1858 to arrange and catalogue thousands of Turner’s drawings that had been left by the painter to the National Gallery, London. This work caused him to see the great painter’s career in a new light. When Modern Painters was completed with a fifth volume in 1860, it had become a much more complex work than the boyishly ardent defence of Turner that Ruskin had begun in 1843.

The year 1860 marked a turning-point in Ruskin’s work. No longer content to see himself as a critic of painting and architecture, he began to write about the social and political conditions on which the production of art depended. Unto this Last, a series of essays on political economy published in the Cornhill Magazine in 1860, was the first expression of this change of direction. The decade that followed was an uncertain and troubled one for Ruskin, and what he published on art—largely in the form of lectures and essays—was inextricably bound up with what he had to say about many other subjects: education, mythology, science, history and the natural world. In 1869 he was elected Oxford’s first Slade Professor of Fine Art, and a series of published lectures on art and other matters followed: Lectures on Art (1870), Aratra Pentelici (1872), The Eagle’s Nest (1872), Ariadne Florentina (1873–6). Ruskin not only lectured but also tried to establish a new method of education in art for the undergraduates of Oxford and founded a series of art collections for their use. In the same period he was publishing a series of letters to ‘the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain’: these were serially published under the title Fors Clavigera (1871–84). Much of his energy was directed towards the activities of the Utopian Guild of St George, founded to counter the aridity and avarice he perceived all around him. In addition he was working on a series of scientific textbooks, on ornithology (Love’s Meinie, 1873–81), botany (Proserpina, 1875–86) and geology (Deucalion, 1875–83).

The work of Ruskin’s later years was crowded and varied, but it was interrupted by mental breakdowns of increasing severity, the first occurring in 1878. Ruskin’s creative life drew to a close in the late 1880s. His last published work was autobiographical, Praeterita (1885–9). He spent his final years in secluded retirement at Brantwood, overlooking Coniston Water in Cumbria, cared for by Joan Severn, a cousin who had shared his home since 1864.

2. Writings.

Ruskin’s first and most substantial contribution to art criticism in the 19th century, Modern Painters, is innovative and retrospective. In the first volume his homage to Turner’s art is expressed in detailed and acute analyses of the formal qualities of the oil paintings and watercolours that he knew so well. An example is his impassioned account of the canvas his father had given him, Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying: Typhoon Coming On (1840; Boston, MA, Mus. F.A.; cw, iii, pp. 571–3). His response to the painter had a scope and intensity unprecedented from a critic. In the second volume he presented a more deliberate and theoretical justification of his conception of the spirituality necessary to great painting, and here his attention turns to religious art. Ruskin’s view of the spiritual quality of art is deeply rooted in the Romanticism and Evangelical Christianity that had formed his mind as a young man. In his view Turner is a great artist because of his veneration for truth, and it is the natural world that embodies the truth he painted. Throughout its five volumes Modern Painters is as much a tribute to a Romantic concept of nature as a celebration of the landscape art of which Turner was the supreme exponent. Ruskin’s championship of the Pre-Raphaelites in the 1850s is founded on the same argument: the Pre-Raphaelites are to be valued because of their devotion to natural truth rather than to human artifice.

It is no accident that each volume of Modern Painters is prefaced by a quotation from William Wordsworth’s The Excursion (1814), for a Wordsworthian perspective informs much of what Ruskin has to say. Looking at the work as a whole, however, the reader is struck (if not overwhelmed) by Ruskin’s immense extension, almost amounting to a transformation, of the Romantic precepts he had absorbed from Wordsworth. Modern Painters is like much of Ruskin’s most significant writing in that its central subject is hard to define. The work proliferates in a sea of multiplying information, observation, instruction and analysis. With its consideration of painting, it also includes material on geology, poetry, history, botany and mythology, all subjects that he continued to think and write about throughout his working life. It is impossible to single out Ruskin’s views on art from other concerns explored in the work, for its main purpose is to confirm what was to become his central conviction as a critic: that art is an expression of wholeness, and that any attempt to separate it from other human concerns will end in its trivialization.

Ruskin developed this primary thesis in another context in his next major work of criticism, The Stones of Venice. A study of the history and architecture of Venice, it is less bewilderingly diverse in its subject-matter than Modern Painters. Much of the work consists of a doggedly patient and precise enumeration of the architectural detail to be found in the major monuments of Venice, with S Marco taking a central place. Here again a spiritual meaning is discovered in the buildings, which are read as texts. A building is more than a collection of walls and windows; it is a statement of the beliefs that sustained the lives of those who built it. Ruskin argued that Venetian Gothic represented a moment of cultural unity, when the religious, economic and military life of the republic embodied itself in palaces and churches that were disciplined communal expressions of humility and devotion. In ‘The Nature of Gothic’, which became (and remains) the most widely known chapter (3) in the work, Ruskin contended that this spirit of shared devotion allowed the medieval craftsman scope to express his own creativity. Ruskin perceived a roughness in the craftsman’s work that was of immeasurably greater value than the mechanical and joyless perfection of 19th-century architecture. This Gothic exuberance seemed to him akin to what he had discovered in Turner’s painting: an expression of natural truth. The freedom to aspire and to worship through art, however, was denied by the mechanical ideals of perfection espoused by the classical architecture of the Renaissance—and, in Ruskin’s argument, by the still more lifeless buildings of his own contemporaries. Ruskin saw Renaissance architecture as worthless and corrupt; it was, in his eyes, an expression of individual pride rather than shared humility. He wrote of the church of S Nicolò da Tolentino (1591–5), Venice, by Vincenzo Scamozzi (with a Corinthian portico by Andrea Tivali), that it was ‘one of the basest and coldest works of the late Renaissance’ (cw, xi, p. 434). What he described as ‘the foul torrent of the Renaissance’ (8.98) is defined as the root of the irresponsible self-assertion that he condemned as the besetting malaise of the 19th century. The Stones of Venice amounts to a powerful plea for a return to the lost spiritual values of the medieval period, which Ruskin interpreted as the highest point of European civilization. As such it was widely discussed and admired, and it became an influential work among the Pre-Raphaelites and their medievalist followers. The Stones of Venice also had a considerable impact on architectural fashion, and Ruskin’s impassioned advocation of Venetian Gothic was a significant source for Gothic Revival architecture in the middle of the 19th century.

Both Modern Painters and The Stones of Venice are firmly grounded in the Christian faith that was the foundation of all Ruskin’s writings until the late 1850s. The loss of his faith in the late 1850s and early 1860s came as a heavy personal blow to him, and it was the major reason for his ceasing to write extensively about art in the 1860s, although it did open some new horizons. One result was that it enabled him to look at Classical art in a more positive spirit. He had previously despised the art of the Greeks as an expression of benighted paganism; now he came to see their mythological religion as an expression of the same reverence for nature that he had discerned in Turner’s paintings. In 1869 he published The Queen of the Air, a study of the Greek goddess Athena, in which his new approach to Greek culture finds its fullest expression. Although his admiration for the sculpture and architecture of the Greeks never touched the heights of enthusiasm to be found in his writings on medieval art—perhaps partly because he never visited Greece—his newly appreciative study of Greek art and religion had a profound impact on what he had to say as Professor of Fine Art in Oxford during the 1870s.

Ruskin’s return to Oxford led him to restate his views on the history and value of art, and the published versions of the lectures he delivered as professor reveal the extent to which his thinking had changed since the completion of Modern Painters. Turner’s work remained important as a touchstone of merit in painting, but it now took its place within a much broader, though idiosyncratically defined, cultural framework. Ruskin now saw the history of painting in terms of two opposing schools: the school of light, seen as essentially Greek, and the Gothic school of colour. The school of colour is defined as being cheerful, optimistic, or even childlike in its imaginative celebration of the world, while the school of light is preoccupied with a darker and more complex pursuit of spiritual truth and is shadowed with a consciousness of mortality. Ruskin saw all landscape art, including that of Turner, in terms of the ‘chiaroscurist school’ (see Chiaroscuro), and it is with this school that he identified his own work. His point in doing so was partly personal, an expression of his increasing melancholy as he grew older. However, he also had an educational purpose, for in this interpretation the ‘school of light’ had most to teach his dim-sighted age. Ruskin’s writings on art had always been didactic, and they became insistently so in the 1870s. In his Oxford lectures he firmly repudiated the notion that the purpose of art is to be decorative, or even beautiful. The purpose of art, as he saw it by this time, was to teach; and the purpose of his criticism was to interpret that teaching.

In these Oxford lectures, as in all Ruskin’s mature work, it is hardly possible to disentangle his views on art from his views on other issues. Only in the early lectures did he confine himself to formal academic discourse: in later series his more usual method of associating his views on painting, sculpture (the ostensible subject of Aratra Pentelici) and architecture with opinions and information on a host of other subjects reasserted itself. Ruskin was writing these lectures alongside Fors Clavigera, and although Fors is more overtly political in its nature, the two projects—together with the texts on natural history that he was also composing at the time—overlap substantially in both subject and approach. This is especially true of the last lectures of Ruskin’s first term of office as professor, which was brought to an end by his first serious bout of mental illness in 1878. In all of this parallel writing Ruskin insisted on the need for reverence of the kind that he had first perceived in Turner’s dedicated expressions of the truths of earth and sky and sea. Medieval building was to be revered (rather than restored), ancient and medieval art was to be respected rather than patronized. He campaigned against what he saw as the desecration of the city he had celebrated in The Stones of Venice, exhibiting his own work as a painter, together with photographs, to protest against the ‘restoration’ of S Marco. The spiritual meaning of a building, or a myth, or a mountain, or a painting by Titian was to be analysed in the same spirit of devoted attention. Ruskin excluded little from his sense of responsibility as a critic. The achievements of landscape art were, in his judgement, worth little if its admirers could not trouble themselves to preserve the scenes that the artist had recorded, and in the 1870s and 1880s Ruskin argued passionately (he was one of the first to do so) for the need to conserve the integrity of the natural world. In these years he came to see his expression of outrage at industrial pollution as an essential part of his duties. After his return for a second period of office in Oxford (1883–5), his lectures on art grew more irascible and more personal, as he praised the work of friends like Kate Greenaway, or claimed Burne-Jones and William Morris as representative of a new school of comparative Greek mythologists. These final courses of lectures are not among Ruskin’s strongest writings, and they mark his departure from the public stage of art criticism. His final brooding autobiographical work, Praeterita, has nothing to add to his arguments as a critic.

3. Teaching, collecting and patronage.

Ruskin’s relations with Oxford had been uneasy since his days as an undergraduate, and it was a quarrel with the university (a vote in 1885 permitting vivisection in the university laboratories had enraged him), rather than a sense of failing energy, that brought about his final resignation. His troubled relations with Oxford were characteristic, for he never found it easy to fit in with institutions. He never attended a large school as a boy, was an outsider as an undergraduate, and he was never prepared to identify himself with any of the institutions (the Royal Academy, the National Gallery) that represented centres of power and prestige in the art world of his day. His influence derived from his writings, his friendships and the institutions (notably the Guild of St George) that he founded and could control himself. When confronted with an established body like the University of Oxford, his response was to form a smaller centre of influence within it. This lies behind the foundation in Oxford in 1871 of the Ruskin Drawing School (now the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art), supported by a collection of items (drawings, paintings and natural specimens) for students to study and copy. Soon, perhaps predictably, the Ruskin Art Collection outgrew its origins and became four collections: the Standard Series, the Reference Series, the Educational Series and the Rudimentary Series. The point of Ruskin’s school was a polemical one, directed against the ‘Kensington’ schools of art supported by the government. Directed by Ruskin’s teaching, students would receive a disciplined education in art based on a spiritual understanding, rather than a technical training. However, this instruction was intended to foster humility rather than creativity, and in its early stages the students were permitted to do little other than to copy. Few found the process enlivening. There were too many demands on Ruskin’s energy in the 1870s to allow him to give much time to the day-to-day running of the school, and without the inspiration of his presence the students drifted away. It was one of the sharpest disappointments of Ruskin’s career as a teacher at Oxford.

Ruskin’s collection began as early as 1837 when his father bought him his first work by Turner, Richmond Bridge, Surrey; Gosport followed in 1839. These were augmented by a considerable collection of Turner’s drawings, which Ruskin exhibited at the Fine Art Society Gallery, London, in 1878, the year in which his friends gave him Pass at Splugen (1842) by Turner to aid his recovery from illness. His collection also reflected his taste in Italian art, for example a Virgin and Child that he attributed to Andrea del Verrocchio (now Edinburgh, N.G.). Ruskin’s patronage of artists depended on personal influence and friendship. He was a generous benefactor to many painters, although he always wished to take charge of their work. This did not prevent his inspiring loyalty and affection among the artists that he helped: Burne-Jones is a notable example. Many, however, found Ruskin’s domination irksome and eventually distanced themselves from him. Dante Gabriel Rossetti felt like this, as did John Brett. Ruskin’s most enduring relations with artists were with those who, like Kate Greenaway, were grateful for his friendship but serenely disregarded his advice. A substantial part of his collection of watercolours and drawings by contemporaries remains at his home, Brantwood. Other large collections of Ruskin’s drawings are to be found at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Guild of St George Collection in Sheffield and the Ruskin Galleries, Bembridge School, on the Isle of Wight.

4. Posthumous reputation.

Given the extraordinary variety of his writings and activities, it is scarcely surprising that Ruskin’s continuing influence should have taken a fragmented form. Nevertheless it has been pervasive and persistent in many areas. His insistence on the value of careful craftsmanship was one of the starting-points of the Arts and Crafts Movement. His political views, especially as expressed in Unto this Last, were fundamental to the thinking of many early British socialists, including William Morris and George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), and were important in the early years of the Labour Party. It is characteristic of Ruskin’s divided legacy that some members of the British Fascist Party also found aspects of his thinking to their taste. His architectural teaching found its most tangible monument in the Oxford Museum of Natural History, but scores of subsequent buildings were modelled on the Gothic principles that he advocated. Many found his suspicion of industrial growth persuasive, and his ecological concerns have turned out to be one of the most lasting legacies of his art criticism. His influence has, however, taken different forms in different cultures. In Japan, where Ruskin studies have a lively and extensive history, his authoritarian and aesthetic views have been emphasized. In France, Ruskin is seen largely through the eyes of Marcel Proust, who was much affected by his work in studying and translating Ruskin. In India, Mahatma Gandhi’s admiration for Ruskin has made him an important figure. North Americans, who had an early interest in his work, initially focused on his Utopian ideals of disciplined work within a community. The town of Ruskin, TN, was founded in active emulation of the Utopian principles outlined in Fors Clavigera.

Ruskin’s significance within the history of art criticism is inseparable from the fact that he was so much more than an art critic. He insisted that art was not an activity that can be cut off from scientific thought, from educational practice or from moral responsibility. Not everyone has been prepared to accept this synthetic approach. In an age of increasing specialization the freedom with which he juxtaposed different areas of concern and expertise within his writing began to look increasingly amateurish and eccentric. Ruskin’s associative methodology became a significant reason for his declining reputation in the later decades of the 19th century. His unremittingly pedagogic approach, together with an insistence on the moral and spiritual dimensions of art, was another cause of his waning popularity. Indeed, the powerful reaction against Ruskin’s prestige has in itself been a source of his continuing influence as a critic. Walter Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873), one of the works that founded aestheticism in the late 19th century, was largely written to refute the views Ruskin had expressed in The Stones of Venice. Art for art’s sake, anathema to Ruskin, was a creed that flourished in part as a result of his work. Oscar Wilde, high priest of the Aesthetic Movement, was steeped in Ruskin, as was an art critic of a later generation, Roger Fry, a central member of the Bloomsbury group, who disdained the Victorians and all they had stood for. It is one of the many ironies of Ruskin’s work that he should, with all his virulent contempt for his own age, have come to be scorned as one of its central representatives.

The critical tide began to turn in the 1960s and 1970s, as a series of sympathetic works based on research of Ruskin’s life and work began to appear in Britain and the USA. The very qualities that had seemed simply bizarre or arrogant in the early or middle years of the 20th century began to attract positive attention. His insistence on the need for conservation, whether it be of pictures, of buildings or of the natural world, now struck a responsive chord. His focus on the social conditions under which art is produced came to seem of central significance. So too did his interest in comparative religion, while his sceptical thinking on the values of progressive science seemed less pointless than it once had. Those interested in the sophisticated interpretative techniques popularized by post-structuralist and deconstructive thinking found Ruskin’s dense and allusive prose intriguing rather than just odd. Others, including the polemical art critic Peter Fuller (1948–90), who founded the journal Modern Painters with reference to Ruskin in 1988, were drawn by his assertion of the spirituality of art. The response to Ruskin’s work, both within the art world and beyond it, remains as varied as ever.


    The standard edition of Ruskin’s writings is The Works of John Ruskin, eds E. T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, 39 vols (London, 1903–12) [cw]. References to this edition are made below by volume and page numbers in square brackets.

  • ‘The Poetry of Architecture’, Architectural Magazine, 4 (1837), pp. 505–8, 556–60; v (1838), pp. 7–14, 56–63, 97–105, 145–54, 193–8, 241–50, 289–301, 337–44, 385–92, 433–42, 481–94, 533–54 [i, pp. 5–188]
  • Modern Painters, 5 vols (London, 1843–60) [iii–vii]
  • The Seven Lamps of Architecture (London, 1849) [viii, pp. 19–272]
  • Pre-Raphaelitism (London, 1851) [xxii, pp. 337–93]
  • The Stones of Venice, 3 vols (London, 1851–3) [ix–xi]
  • Lectures on Architecture and Painting (London, 1854) [xii, pp. 1–164]
  • The Harbours of England (London, 1856) [xiii, pp. 1–76]
  • The Political Economy of Art (London, 1857) [xvi, pp. 1–139]
  • The Elements of Drawing (London, 1857) [xv, pp. 1–228]
  • The Elements of Perspective (London, 1859) [xv, pp. 229–331]
  • ‘Unto this Last’, Cornhill Magazine, 2/8 (1860), pp. 185–96; no. 9, pp. 278–86; no. 10, pp. 407–18; no. 11, pp. 543–64, repr. as book (London, 1862) [xvii, pp. 1–114]
  • Sesame and Lilies (London, 1865) [xviii, pp. 1–29, 53–114]
  • ‘The Cestus of Aglaia’, A.J. [London], 4 (1865), pp. 5–6, 33–5, 73–4, 101–2, 129–30, 177–8, 197–9; v (1866), pp. 9–10, 33–4, 97–8 [xix, pp. 135–59]
  • The Ethics of the Dust (London, 1866) [xviii, pp. 189–368]
  • The Crown of Wild Olive (London, 1866) [xviii, pp. 369–493]
  • The Queen of the Air (London, 1869) [xix, pp. 279–423]
  • Lectures on Art (London, 1870) [xx, pp. 1–179]
  • Fors Clavigera (London, 1871–84) [xxvii–xxix]
  • Aratra Pentelici (London, 1872) [xx, pp. 181–354]
  • The Eagle’s Nest (London, 1872) [xxii, pp. 111–287]
  • Ariadne Florentina (London, 1873–6) [xxii, pp. 301–24]
  • Love’s Meinie (London, 1873–81) [xxv, pp. 11–73]
  • Val d’Arno (London, 1874) [xxiii, pp. 1–176]
  • Mornings in Florence (London, 1875–7) [xxiii, pp. 293–381]
  • Proserpina (London, 1875–86) [xxv, pp. 197–536]
  • Deucalion (London, 1875–83) [xxvi, pp. 95–360]
  • St Mark’s Rest (London, 1877–84) [xxiv, pp. 203–400]
  • The Bible of Amiens (London, 1880–85) [xxxiii, pp. 21–187]
  • The Art of England (1883–4) [xxxiii, pp. 267–408]
  • The Storm-cloud of the Nineteenth Century (London, 1884) [xxiv, pp. 1–80]
  • The Pleasures of England (London, 1884–5) [xxxiii, pp. 421–504]
  • Praeterita (London, 1885–9) [xxxv, pp. 11–562]
Letters and diaries
  • J. L. Bradley, ed.: Ruskin’s Letters from Venice (New Haven, CT, 1955)
  • J. Evans and J. H. Whitehouse, eds: The Diaries of John Ruskin, 3 vols (Oxford, 1956–9)
  • V. A. Burd, ed.: The Winnington Letters (Cambridge, MA, 1969)
  • H. J. Viljoen, ed.: The Brantwood Diary of John Ruskin (New Haven and London, 1971)
  • H. Shapiro, ed.: Ruskin in Italy: Letters to his Parents, 1845 (Oxford, 1972)
  • V. A. Burd, ed.: The Ruskin Family Letters: The Correspondence of John James, his Wife and their Son John, 1801–1843 (Ithaca, NY, and London, 1973)


  • H. J. Viljoen: Ruskin’s Scottish Heritage (Urbana, IL, 1956)
  • J. D. Rosenberg: The Darkening Glass (London, 1963)
  • P. Walton: The Drawings of John Ruskin (Oxford, 1972)
  • R. A. P. Hewison: John Ruskin: The Argument of the Eye (London, 1976)
  • J. Clegg: Ruskin and Venice (London, 1981)
  • J. Dixon Hunt: The Wider Sea: A Life of John Ruskin (London, 1982)
  • T. Hilton: John Ruskin: The Early Years (London, 1985)
  • S. Sawyer: Ruskin’s Poetic Argument: The Design of the Major Work (New York, 1985)
  • D. Birch: Ruskin’s Myths (Oxford, 1988)
  • D. Birch: Ruskin on Turner (London, 1990)
  • S. Emerson: Ruskin: The Genesis of Invention (Cambridge, 1993)