13 January – 15 April 2007
In The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849), Ruskin discussed the value of sculpture only in relation to its role in the meaningful decoration of architecture, otherwise regarding the tendency of its “pictorial manner, when it is apt to lose its dignity, [to] sink into mere ingenious carving.” His general lack of admiration for individual works of sculpture mirrors a preference for Gothic architecture over classical and modern, and the history of European sculpture from the Renaissance to his own time receives relatively little attention in his writings. For Ruskin, the anonymous carvers working on great medieval churches were far more worthy of praise than Michelangelo or Hiram Powers.
This display brings together depictions of sculpture from the collection of Ruskin’s drawings in the Whitehouse Collection at the Ruskin Library. The majority are of details from Abbeville and Amiens, Florence and Lucca, and of course many from Venice and Verona, including studies used in the preparation of The Stones of Venice (1851-53). Individual examples show his occasional interest in classical and even Egyptian art, leading up to his only sustained examination of sculpture, the 1870 Oxford lectures Aratra Pentelici. Drawings in Ruskin’s manuscript diaries will be complemented by photographs from his collection, including daguerreotypes of Gothic architectural sculpture.
John Ruskin: Trevi Fountain, Rome