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John Ruskin (Critical Lives)
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John Ruskin (1819-1900) was the most prominent art and architecture critic of his day. His books, pamphlets and letters to the press had an influence on all classes of society, from road-menders to royalty, and he still maintains a popular reputation today, though he is remembered less for his views than for his failed marriage to Effie Gray, who left him for the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais. Frequently imagined as a Victorian prude, there was far more to Ruskin than this derisory description suggests. John Ruskin shows us how Ruskin’s ideas gave a moral character to art, architecture and the Picturesque and reveals how and why his reputation endures. Ruskin’s devoted parents were convinced that their son was a genius and encouraged him to write about the moral and spiritual value of art rather than his other major passion, geology. While his parents lived Ruskin wrote his best works: Modern Painters, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, The Stones of Venice and Unto This Last. After they died Ruskin seemed lost until he put himself in the hands of a younger cousin, Joan Severn, who guarded his reputation while his mental capacities declined, beyond the public gaze, in the Lake District. This book weaves Ruskin’s life and work into a fascinating narrative about Victorian society: Ruskin understood art, its beauty and wonder, as a solution to the miseries of the urban poor and the key to living a worthwhile life. Offering fresh readings of Ruskin’s major texts, this is an engaging biography ofthe artist’s life and times.
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