John Ruskin towers over so many aspects of life in Victorian Britain that it is difficult to know where to begin. Many moons ago, when I was an undergraduate specialising in Victorian history, I struggled to try and place him in a convenient slot.
You just can’t!
At his home at Brantwood on the shores of Coniston the other week, on a quite beautiful Lake District day, I tried again.
Just to get started:
Ruskin promoted (not in any order of importance – these were ALL important causes to him:
The importance of art and literature and the belief that these were the territory of ALL members of society and not just the academics and well-off.
The creation of a Welfare State, social security benefits and a free health service.
Painting and drawing.
Fighting for access to the countryside.
Preserving old paths and ways.
Studying architecture, rocks and geology.
Enjoying mountain landscapes.
Promoting the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists.
Craftsmanship as opposed to shoddy mass-production.
Conserving the landscape – his ideas influenced the creators of the National Trust.
And believe me these are just a few!
His home at Brantwood, a strange development, something that seems to grow out of the wooded hillside, is well-worth a visit. His study overlooks Coniston Water and the Coniston fells, the Old Man and Wetherlam. How he got any work done at all with views like that is beyond me.