John Ruskin: Photographer and Draughtsman
4 February – 1 June 2014
The first exhibition to explore how the medium of photography played a pivotal role in the evolution of Ruskin's influential thinking.
John Ruskin was one of the key cultural figures of the Victorian age, an admired writer, draughtsman and watercolourist. Travelling widely throughout Europe, he became a passionate advocate of photography, which he described as 'a noble invention'.
First commissioning professionals to make images for him, and then later learning to create them himself, Ruskin built up a substantial archive of daguerrotypes, which became the basis for his studies back in England.
He found photography enabled him to develop his understanding of landscape and architecture in a way that had not previously been possible, marvelling at how it allowed him to pore over precise details that were beyond the limits of memory.
'It is very nearly the same thing as carrying off the palace itself' he wrote, 'every chip of stone and stain is there...'.
The exhibition displays a series of Ruskin's watercolours alongside the photographs that inspired them. Many of these daguerreotypes – drawn from the Ruskin Library at Lancaster University – have rarely been seen on public display before.
Seeking to follow in the footsteps of his artistic hero JMW Turner, Ruskin was especially interested in capturing the landscape of the Alps, the Gothic architecture of Northern France and the scenery of Renaissance Italy, examples of which can be seen in this display.