Gothic Architecture: Ruskin's Influence on Britain

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  • Topic: Architectural style, Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Ruskin
  • Pages : 8 (2646 words )
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  • Published : October 19, 2010
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John Ruskin was not an architect by trade. However, he had a strong impact on architecture in Britain in more ways than any other architect of his time. Ruskin was an English art critic and social thinker, but he maintained a deep passion for architecture. Ruskin published many works on architecture, naturalism in art, and moral issues–his essays on art and architecture were especially influential in the Victorian period. Ruskin was born on February 8th, 1819 in London, England. He became very well known at a young age for his support of the works of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). J.M.W. Turner was an English Romantic landscaper painter whose style of work was considered controversial: he believed in embracing the authentic forms of nature, which did not follow the rigid structures of the time. Ruskin defended naturalism in art like Turner’s, and he was also a strong supporter of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The Pre-Raphaelite movement sought to reform the teachings of the Royal Academy. The Pre-Raphaelites attempted to move away from the more mechanistic focus of the Royal Academy and shift more towards naturalism. With a background in art studies, Ruskin became a distinguished and respected critic of art and architecture by supporting the Pre-Raphaelites¬: he published works supporting their naturalist movement. Ruskin was very involved in the art community, but his true passion was for the architecture of the time. Although John Ruskin was not an architect himself, he managed to pursue his passion and strongly influence British architecture. His impact can be attributed to his persuasive publications, critical outlook, mass of followers, and passion for the architecture of his time.

Ruskin affected the architectural community of Britain was by his opinionated publications that include religious persuasion. In 1834, at age 15, Ruskin published his first work for London’s Magazine of Natural History. This was the first of a series of articles that he published in this magazine. Ruskin began to share his written ideas at a very early age, which allowed his ideas to reach the public early in his career. “The refinement of Ruskin’s style after 1835 ensured that by the time he entered Oxford in 1837 as a ‘gentleman commoner’ at Christ Church he would be recognized as a star graduate of the kind of art education provided for amateurs by the drawing masters of the Water-Colour Society” (Walton, 30). Even at the remarkably early age of 16, Ruskin was recognized as a star graduate with a respectable background in art. Although he was not an expert he was still very young but that did not stop Ruskin from publishing and writing about the art and architecture that he viewed.

In 1836, before he entered Oxford, Ruskin wrote The Poetry of Architecture. This essay was a reflection on a study of cottages, villas, and other dwellings, which focused on a Wordsworthian argument. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was an English Romantic poet that helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads. He wrote about nature in the raw, the emotion and authenticity of his poems were focused upon the reality of nature. From his poetic movement the Wordsworthian argument was born. The Wordsworthian argument made the case that structures should be sympathetic to local environments in that they should celebrate the surroundings of the structure as well as use local materials. Ruskin supported this argument because he was an avid naturalist who believed in emulating nature in architecture. Another of Ruskin’s influential publications was Modern Painters.

Modern Painters was a book with several subsequent volumes written about a wide range of different types of art. This book received attention from the architectural community, which then persuaded Ruskin to produce many volumes. “Among students and faculty he was soon well known as a talented artist and he was often asked to bring out his albums of...
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