John Ruskin, A Study of Ivy, a watercolour with gouache over pencil

England, after AD 1870

A sketch made near the artists's home at Brantwood, Coniston Water, in the Lake District

The great social thinker and critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) wrote a series of enormously influential works: Modern Painters (5 volumes between 1834 and 1860), The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) and The Stones of Venice (1851-53). He shaped the taste of the British public, championing the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and, especially, Turner. His love and support for Gothic architecture led to the dominant building style of Victorian England. His social theories sowed the seeds of the Welfare State, and his special interests encompassed education, ornithology and geology, as well as poetry, art and architecture.

Although he was not a professional artist, Ruskin produced some of the most beautiful drawings and watercolours of his age. As a draughtsman, Ruskin relied on intense observation to reveal natural beauty, through which was revealed, in turn, a spiritual truth: 'good taste' he observed frequently, 'is essentially a moral quality'. Here the freely-handled outer edges bring the central leaves into acute focus, a visual expression of Ruskin's preferred way of seeing.

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More information


J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

J.A Gere, Pre-Raphaelite drawings in the (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

R. Hewison, I. Warrell and S. Wildman, Ruskin, Turner and the Pre-Rap, exh. cat. (Tate Gallery, London, 2000)


Height: 455.000 mm
Width: 347.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1979-1-27-11



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