John Ruskin - The Prophet
The Ruskin Museum in Coniston was founded in 1901 as this small and historically self-sufficient Lakeland village’s permanent memorial to its most famous resident.
John Ruskin, 1819 - 1900, the great Victorian pundit on aesthetics and ethics, art, architecture, and moral values, excoriated the greed of Laissez-Faire Capitalism and its pollutant effects on the natural environment, the atmosphere - and the work-force. His credo - ‘There is no wealth but life’ - is increasingly relevant to-day.
Ruskin had been raised by a strictly Fundamentalist mother, who indoctrinated him with the idea of an earthly Paradise Lost to such an extent that he devoted his life to a search for Paradise Regained.
He came to the mountain and the lake, moving in to Brantwood in 1872, drawn by the finest view in England, which had inspired the man he named her greatest painter, J.M.W. Turner, in whose praise Ruskin wrote Modern Painters.
One of the supreme communicators of all countries and all times, Ruskin - artist, critic, subversively radical social thinker, revolutionary economist, pioneer ‘Green’ and eco-warrior, environmental and architectural conservationist, father of Alpine tourism, saviour of Venice as we know it, and seer par excellence, Ruskin was a lateral thinker of genius, who inspired much of what is now taken for granted as ‘the British Way of Life’ from The Welfare State to the minimum wage and State Pension, from universal education and teacher training to famine relief, from The National Trust and The National Parks Movement to The Art Fund.
More than a century after his death, his ideas have much still to offer.
The Ruskin Museum displays a large collection of his watercolours and drawings, all lovingly selected by the man Ruskin called his Aide-de-Camp, W.G.Collingwood, author of the first Life of John Ruskin. Collingwood was particularly fascinated by the way Ruskin developed his ideas visually, through his drawings and sketches, studying the particular with the closest possible attention before speculating on the underlying general principles - whether of clouds, trees or mountains, skies or Gothic buildings. Plaster casts of leaves and Greek coins; giant feathers; crystal formations; all help to illuminate how Ruskin saw.