John Ruskin, the noted Victorian Art Critic and Social and Political thinker was born 8th of February 1819. Consequently a number of exhibitions and other events are being held around the country to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. Ruskin spent his last years at Brantwood on the shores of Coniston Water, overlooking the Old Man and the other fells, so had a strong connection with the Lake District. Abbot Hall in Kendal have a strong connection with Ruskin and have a number of his drawings and watercolours in their collection. So, it’s not surprising that in this celebratory year they’re holding an exhibition. Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud has been produced in partnership with York Art Gallery and University of York and is showing in Kendal from 12 July to 5 October.
Ruskin championed the work of the great British artist JMW Turner, proclaiming him to be ‘the greatest of the age’ and so the exhibition is intended to be
the first in-depth examination of the relationship between both men, their work, and the impact Ruskin had in highlighting climate change.Abbot Hall website
Our first ever visit to Abbot Hall, way back in April 2012, was to see another exhibition featuring the works of Turner – Turner and his Contemporaries: The Hickman Bacon Watercolour Collection – we’ve been back many times since.
The exhibition includes a large number of paintings and drawings by both Ruskin and Turner, together with some by their contemporaries, and occupies the whole of the first floor of the Gallery.
The curators also commissioned contemporary artist Emma Stibbon to produce some large scale works in response to Ruskin’s concerns about the environment.
In June 2018, Royal Academician Stibbon retraced the steps of Turner and Ruskin visiting the Alps. She took the route made by Ruskin in June 1854 when he produced a series of daguerreotypes (early photographs) of Alpine scenery, to see what remains of the glaciers today.
Her work shows how geography has been impacted by climate change over the last two centuries.Abbot Hall website
Turner’s paintings are usually nothing short of breathtaking and that was certainly the case with those works – mainly watercolours of British and alpine landscapes – included in the exhibition
Ruskin himself wasn’t a bad draftsman and water-colourist himself (although his paintings are not in Turner’s league, there aren’t many artists who are) and the exhibition featured a large number of his architectural drawings and landscapes. During his time at Brantwood he painted many pictures of the lake and fells, including this one of the Old Man seen from his home over the lake.
During his travels in the Alps Ruskin photographed a glacier in the Alps, near Chamonix (photography being yet another of his interests)
Emma Stibbon returned to the glacier and took photographs using another early photographic process, cyanotype, from the same position. Her images reveal just how far it had retreated as a result of climate change.
Stibbon is quoted in the Guardian
When we think of the Alps,” said Stibbon, “we think of iconic white peaks. By the end of this century, there probably won’t be any snow.”Advertisement
She added that Ruskin was ahead of his time in realising “the Industrial Revolution was affecting air quality and that air pollution was linked to the use of coal. He could see that glaciers move and I think he suspected that there was some [ice] recession, which would have been starting around that period in the 1850s.”
Another interesting and thought provoking exhibition at Abbot Hall.