Ruskin: Past, Present, Future

Thursday, January 20, 2000
Sunday, February 27, 2000

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was one of the most significant figures of the Victorian age. Artist and art critic, teacher, social commentator, and environmentalist, his powerful influence on cultural and political thought has endured both in Europe and in North America throughout the twentieth century and continues to resonate profoundly today. 

Organized to commemorate the centenary of his death, and part of a worldwide celebration of his remarkable achievements, this exhibition examined John Ruskin’s life and legacy. It included watercolors, drawings, prints, books, and manuscripts selected from the Center’s holdings and other collections at Yale.

Ruskin’s criticism and teaching influenced a generation of landscape watercolorists, and the exhibition evaluated the significance of this legacy. One of the Center’s acquisitions, Paul Naftel’s Head of Loch Lomond, with Ben Lomond in the Distance, which Ruskin highly praised, was on public display for the first time since it was originally shown in  

John Ruskin, Mountain Landscape, Macugnaga (detail), 1845, pen and brown ink, brown wash, graphite and scraping out on thick, smooth, cream wove paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

London in 1859. The exhibition also documented Ruskin’s investigation of the relationship between art and political and social issues—one of his most pervasive legacies to the twentieth century—as well as his active engagement with education and the museum, and his interest in the environment.

To complement the exhibition, quotations placed around the Center’s fourth-floor galleries provided a Ruskin-guided tour of the permanent collection. A one-day symposium on Ruskin with speakers from North America and Europe also took place at the Center at the time of the opening.