John Ruskin, an English author, born in London in February, 1819. He is the son of a London merchant, from whom he inherited a large fortune, and graduated in 1842 at Christ Church college, Oxford, having in 1839 gained the Newdigate prize for English poetry. Immediately afterward he devoted himself to the study of art, and to water-color painting. In 1843 he published "Modern Painters: their Superiority in the Art of Landscape Painting to all the Ancient Masters. By a Graduate of Oxford." It attracted attention from the brilliancy of its style, the eloquence of its descriptive passages, and particularly the summary manner in which the most distinguished landscape painters of the old and new schools were disposed of, and Turner's supremacy advocated. Among critics and connoisseurs its reception was generally hostile, but it gained admirers and disciples, and in 1846 was republished in a greatly enlarged form, accompanied by a second volume treating "Of the Imaginative and Theoretic Faculties," to which, after an interval of ten years, a third and fourth were added; and in 1860 the work was completed by a fifth volume, the last three volumes containing illustrations by the author.
Mr. Ruskin subsequently revised this work, making many alterations (5 vols. 8vo, London, 1860-67). At the time of its completion in 1860 the original title had become a misnomer, the work being for the most part a philosophical treatise on landscape painting. The collection of materials for this work involved long visits to various parts of continental Europe, and in the cities of Italy, especially in Venice, the contemplation of the more striking mediaeval buildings inspired Ruskin with the idea of a reform in domestic architecture. The result was his "Seven Lamps of Architecture" (8vo, 1849), and "The Stones of Venice" (3 vols., 1851-3), both works illustrated by himself. In 1851 he began a series of "Examples of the Architecture of Venice," from his own designs, of which but three parts appeared. Among his other architectural publications are a pamphlet entitled "The Opening of the Crystal Palace, considered in some of its Relations to the Prospects of Art," mainly devoted to a scheme for the preservation of Gothic buildings and works of art, and "The Study of Architecture in our Schools" (1865). His "Notes on the Construction of Sheepfolds" (1851) is a discussion of church discipline and doctrine rather than of church building.
The pre-Ra-phaelite movement in the British school of painting early enlisted the sympathy of Ruskin, who alleged that the principles on which Hunt, Millais, and their followers proceeded had first been enunciated in his own works; and in his pamphlet "Pre-Raphaelitism" (1851), his "Notes" on the royal academy exhibitions of 1855-'60, and elsewhere, he has recorded his admiration of the productions of the new school. In his "Notes" on Turner's pictures and drawings exhibited in Marlborough house, published in 1857, he astonished the public by severe strictures on that painter. In 1867 he was appointed Rede lecturer at Cambridge, and received from the university the degree of LL. D. In 1869 he was elected professor of fine arts in the university of Oxford. In 1871 he gave £5,000 to endow a master of drawing in the Taylor galleries, Oxford. He has published several courses of lectures to-artisans and others, among which are: "Architecture and Painting" (1854); "The Political Economy of Art" (1858); "The Two Paths," being lectures on decoration and manufacture (1859); "Sesame and Lilies," on books and reading (1864); "The Ethics of the Dust," on the elements of crystallization (1865); "The Crown of Wild Olive," on work, traffic, and war (1866); "Lectures on Art," delivered at Oxford (1870); "The Eagle's Nest" and "Ara-tra Pentelici," on the elements of sculpture (1872); and "Ariadne Florentina," on engraving (1874). He has also published "Elements of Perspective," with 80 diagrams (1839); "The King of the Golden River," a Christmas fairy tale (1851); a notice of " Giotto and his Works" (1855), prepared for a collection of engraved outlines of the frescoes of that master, published by the Arundel society, of which Ruskin was one of the founders; "Elements of Drawing, in three Letters for Beginners" (1857), one of his most practical and useful treatises; "Unto this Last," essays on political economy (1862); "Time and Tide, by "Weare and Tyne," letters on the laws of work (1867); and "The Queen of the Air," a study of the Greek myths of cloud and storm (1869). He is the author of the illustrative text in Turner's "Harbors of England," and of many contributions to the "Quarterly Review" and other periodicals, of which some of the more important are the reviews of Lord Lindsay's " Christian Art" and Eastlake's "History of Oil Painting," in the "London Quarterly," and a biographical notice of Samuel Prout in the "Art Journal." In January, 1871, he began a series of monthly letters to working men, under the general title "Fors Clavi-gera," which are still continued (1875), and have been gathered into volumes.
Several volumes of selections from his works have appeared, the best of which are "Art Culture," a treatise ingeniously constructed from selected passages (published only in New York, 1872), and "Frondes Agrestes," readings from "Modern Painters" (1875), with critical notes by himself. A series of articles on the "Poetry of Architecture," which appeared in a London magazine in 1837-'8, under the signature of "Kata Phusin," have been collected and added to his works, as he tacitly admits their authorship. His latest publications are: "Mornings in Florence" (first part), "Proserpina, Studies of Wayside Flowers" (parts i. and ii.), "Love's Meinie," "Notes on some of the Pictures in the Exhibition of the Royal Academy," "Deucalion," and "Val d'Arno" (1875). Besides his numerous writings, he has engaged in or announced various schemes for the benefit of different classes of society.