Talks and Walks

Below are descriptions of a number of Talks on Ruskin and his thought which I have given that seem to have pleased their audiences. Internal to some of the descriptions are comments about Walks I have led–or could lead–which illustrate some of the most important of Ruskin’s concepts about art, architecture, nature, or society. In some cases, the descriptions have links to an audio or a video version of the talk, either of which will give a sense of my presentation style. If, on reading any of the descriptions, you are interested in finding out more about such speaking or ambulatory possibilities, feel free to write me at If none of these appeal, I would be happy to discuss other talks and walkabouts pertaining to Ruskin’s work. Given the immense breadth of his output, the possibilities are legion.

Why Ruskin? This is a shorter, spoken version of my paper of the same title. For a fuller description of the paper, see the Writing Ruskin page.

Availing Toward Life: The Essential Ideas of Ruskin’s Unto this Last. Like the talk above, this is a shorter, spoken version of my paper of this title. It was first delivered at the Hillside Club, Berkeley, California on 15 July, 2013. To view a fuller description of this event, visit: To listen to an audio recording of the talk, click, in sequence,  Ruskin_conf_2a_spates.MP3 [and] Ruskin_conf_2b_spates.MP3

“All of Us are Builders”: The Continuing Relevance of Ruskin’s Seven Lamps of Architecture in the 21st Century. An illustrated talk first presented as the Keynote Address at the Annual Roycroft Conference on the Arts and Crafts, East Aurora, New York, 19 October, 2013. It introduces Ruskin’s now all but forgotten arguments concerning the essential principles which, when they are present, change buildings into “architecture,” edifices at once great, humane, and inspiring. Given adequate lead time for viewing local architecture, this talk could be framed using illustrations from that immediate context. If desired, a walk illustrating Ruskin’s key concepts could follow the talk. An audio recording of the original presentation of the talk will soon be available.

On the Old Road with Ruskin: From the Continent to Coniston. An invited talk first given to The Friends of Ruskin’s Brantwood at Ruskin’s home, Brantwood, in Coniston, UK,  June, 2014. Illustrated, it covers my journey to most of the principal places in Europe  and England about which Ruskin wrote so inspiringly (see “A Further Note” immediately below). A video recording of this presentation can be viewed at (Note that the filming was done in segments. To view the entire lecture or any particular section, you need to click on subsequent links on the same site.)

{A Further Note or Ruskin’s “Old Road”: As mentioned, the majority of Ruskin’s remarkable works on art, architecture, and nature, were based on his extensive travels to Europe. Over the course of more than four decades, first with his parents, later alone, often with friends, he made more than a dozen such excursions, lasting from a few weeks to, in some cases, many months. His route was almost always the same (hence, “The Old Road”): from England into France, especially to Paris and the great cathedral cities (Amiens, Rouen, Lyon), up through the Jura Mountains into Switzerland and the Alps (Swiss and French), and then, via one of the great Alpine passes, into Italy–Milan, Verona, Padua, Venice (especially Venice: see below), Florence, Siena, Rome and, on occasion, as far south as Naples and Sicily. Over the course of my Ruskin studies, using his writings and drawings as guides, I have visited all of these places and taken many photographs. If desired, I could give a “Ruskin talk” on any of these places (“Ruskin, Turner, and the Alps”), on a theme of interest (“Ruskin and the Great French Cathedrals”), or any particular itinerary along the Old Road (see the description of “For the Love of Beauty,” below).}

“This Paradise of Cities”: Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, and Architecture. Ruskin wrote the three volume Stones of Venice in the early 1850s. His intentions were two: to highlight the building principles which made the floating city on the Adriatic the wonder of the architectural world, and to warn his own society, this argument being that, in their headlong pursuit of riches, like Venice as it declined from its apex in the early Renaissance, his contemporaries had forgotten the humane ideals that, from time immemorial, allowed communities to thrive. This illustrated talk, first presented at the Annual Roycroft Arts and Crafts Conference in October, 2014, presents both arguments and shows why Ruskin’s views are still most pertinent in our own era.

For the Love of Beauty: Ruskin, Modern Painters, and the Old Road. In the first two volumes of Modern Painters, Ruskin outlined his theory of beauty, his thesis being that virtually everything in the world, looked at as it should be, is beautiful and designed to give delight. All his writings on art, architecture, and nature were intended to made this argument palpable. First given as the Keynote Address for the annual conference on “British Idealism” at Gregynog, Wales in December, 2014, this talk, with a special emphasis on Ruskin’s trip on “The Old Road” in 1882 (through France, Switzerland, and Italy) is designed to do the same.     

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