John Ruskin, the leading art and social critic of the Victorian era, had a complicated relationship to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), or the South Kensington Museum (as it was called in his day). Ruskin was a passionate advocate of the value of museums: he created his own for working people in the industrial British city of Sheffield and held strong views on the role of civic institutions.
Tristram Hunt, the current director of the V&A, is a British historian, broadcast journalist, and former Labour Party politician who served as a member of Parliament from 2010 to 2017. Hunt will explore the ideas and values represented by art and museums in Ruskin’s writings, the critic’s troubled relationship with the South Kensington Museum’s founding director, Sir Henry Cole, and reflect on Ruskin’s relevance for museums in the twenty-first century.
This biennial lecture was named in honor of the Center’s founder, Paul Mellon (Yale College, Class of 1929).