Welcome to “Why Ruskin”

The intent of this website is to introduce its readers to the remarkable thought of the great 19th Century British Art and Social Critic, John Ruskin. Even though his is hardly a household name these days, it is my deep and enduring belief that Ruskin’s brilliant thought and carefully worked out ideas (always encased in glorious prose) still retain great relevancy for our modern days, offering new ways of thinking about and, quite possibly, if put into practice, alleviating or lessening many of the troubles which still beset us. But there is second level to Ruskin’s genius, his unparalleled ability to make the beauty of this world and life come alive. I am hopeful that, after reading some of the posts that follow you might be inclined to agree with these assessments.

If you are a First Time Visitor, I recommend you begin by reading the First Post: “An Introduction to this Site” (just click on this link). Using a number of Ruskin’s best quotes, this initial offering outlines the site’s history and goals. If, after reading it, you’d like to read other Posts, scroll up to the top of this screen and, under the banner, chose the Page, “Previous Posts in Sequence.” This will bring you to a list of all the site’s posts; chick on any one and you will be taken to it. The other Pages listed under the banner, “Writing Ruskin,” “Talks and Walks,” “Ruskin Resources,” and “Ruskin’s Life: A Radical Revision” will be self-explanatory as you open them.

The ten most recently published Posts can always be found in the right hand column. Click on any one and you will be taken to it. If you’d like to be notified of  new Posts as they publish, as I hope you will, click on the “FOLLOW” button at the top of the column and just type in your email address. (Questions, suggestions, or comments always welcome.) Also in the right column you will find a feature that allows you to view “Previous Posts by Topic,” and a very useful search engine (type in a word or phrase you are interested in).

If you’d like to read an overview explaining how I came to admire Ruskin as much as I do, complete with examples showing why I think that judgment is sound, you can have a look at my essay,  “Why Ruskin?”  The lovely drawing below–there are hundreds more (many are reproduced in the following Posts)!–is Ruskin’s


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230: Reverence for Life

Frequently, I’m happy to attest, I come across a passage when reading Ruskin that is just so transcendently beautiful, so universally and humanly right, that, even though I may have read it a number of times before, I am once again transfixed, awed, and deeply moved by the sheer brilliance of his words; at these times, I often wonder why we have not all been repeatedly exposed to such passages over the course of our own educational arc. Such is the case with brief quote I offer today..

By the late 1860s, Ruskin, not for the first time in his life, was depressed. For all intents and purposes, his art and architectural criticism were behind him, He had spent much of the decade speaking, always brilliantly, on subjects that had to do with his political economy (first systematized in Unto this Last in 1860) . But his radical and humane thinking on these absolutely critical matters had generally been reprobated. and that forcefully, by the public. Hence, it is not surprising that he began to think that his life to that point, a life which, from the first, he had devoted to public service and to making the lives of his fellows easier, had been a failure.

Then in 1869, rather surprisingly, he was appointed the first Slade professor of Fine Art at his alma mater, Oxford University. Among the principal duties attending his new position was an expectation that he would prepare a series of lectures on the subject and history of art for the students who took his courses. Into the preparation and delivery of these talks, not uncharacteristically, he threw great energy. Many of them contain some of his greatest passages. Happily, most have been preserved. After each sequence of lectures was delivered, the separate subjects were collected, and then, demand for his work still being significant, were published in book form. One such collection, published in 1872, bore the title, The Eagle’s Nest, and it is from that series that today’s passage is taken. As you read it, imagine what a privilege it would’ve been to have been in the student audience in the Scheldonian Theater at Oxford, as he read, in his eloquent style (all who were there agreed on this), the following words aloud for the first time; They contain the essence of his entire teaching:

All nature, with one voice, with one glory, is set to teach you reverence for the life communicated to you from the Father of Spirits. The Song of birds, and their plumage; the scent of flowers, their color, their very existence, are in direct connection with the ministry of that communicated Life: and all the strengths, and all the arts, of men, are measured by, and founded upon, their reverence for the passion, and their guardianship of, the purity of love.

The Sheldonian Theater, Oxford University–Then
The Sheldonian Theater–Oxford University–Now

Until next time;

Please do continue well out there!

🙂 Jim

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