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Rediscovering The Radical Ruskin

Who was John Ruskin? A highly influential Victorian polymath, whose work and ideas inspired revolutionaries such as Gandhi amongst others, Ruskin is greatly underappreciated today.

A series of events across the anniversary year aim to reignite the radical flame of Ruskin and introduce him to a new contemporary audience. Much of Ruskin’s work was written or created at his Brantwood home in Cumbria, where he resided for three decades from 1872 up until his death in 1900.

Who was John Ruskin?

John Ruskin
• John Ruskin was born in London in 1819, the only son of a successful Scottish sherry merchant. His father encouraged him to take up painting and poetry

• He was a leading art critic of the Victorian era, a prominent social thinker, philanthropist and artist. He wrote about a multitude of subjects from architecture, education, bird life, botany to myths and legends.

• He rose to public fame when he defended the painter JMW Turner in a book called ‘Modern Painters’. Ruskin’s art criticism and ideas inspired William Morris and the pre-Raphaelites.

• In the 1860s he became more interested on the politics and society, rallying against the exploitation of the poor by wealthy industrialists.

• He championed many of the tenets of the welfare state, and inspired the founders of the National Health Service, the formation of Public Libraries, the National Trust and many other cornerstones of civil society in the last one hundred years.

• A ‘Rural Arts Revival’ was driven by Ruskin through supporting the Langdale Linen Industry which used a unique style of embroidery called reticella lace which is known locally as Ruskin Lace’.

Key places to visit:

The Ruskin Museum

The Ruskin Museum

The Ruskin Museum is a cabinet of curiosities which tells the story of Coniston and provides an excellent introduction to Ruskin the artist and thinker and reformer. There will be a series of temporary exhibitions (Feb-Jun) showcasing aspects of their Ruskin collections not on permanent display, and paintings and objects associated with his Coniston circle and his Arts & crafts initiatives.

Find Out More

Brantwood House

Brantwood House and Steam Gondola

Brantwood House - the home of Ruskin, located on the lake shore of Coniston, is now a historic house with gardens, museum and vibrant centre for the arts. Follow in the footsteps of the Victorians and arrive in style via the
Steam Yacht Gondola.

Brantwood is hosting a series of special 200th Anniversary events and exhibitions through the year; highlights include ‘Absence & Presence in John Ruskin's Clothing’ by artist in residence Sarah Casey, ‘Incandescence: Turner's Venice’ and ‘Treasure From Dust’ (opens 8 Aug) a new permanent display about Ruskin’s geology featuring over 2000 specimens.

Find out more

Abbot Hall Art Gallery

Ruskin, Turner & The Storm Cloud

Abbot Hall Art Gallery ‘Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud’ (12 Jul-5 Oct) examines themes in Ruskin’s work including the influence of Turner, his fascination with the impact of industrialisation on the environment and his ongoing struggle with depression.

Find out more

Coniston Village Celebrations

Coniston Village Celebrations are planned for the 200th birthday of John Ruskin, on Friday 8 February.

The Ruskin Museum and Brantwood, in partnership with Coniston Schools, St Andrew’s Church, the Village Institute and other community groups will be coming together to pay tribute to John Ruskin, his life, his works and his legacy to the Village.

Events will start in the morning with activities in both Village Schools, The Ruskin Museum will be leading an Assembly in John Ruskin School and Brantwood staff will be running activities with Coniston CofE Primary School.

A service at St Andrew’s Church followed by a laying of flowers on John Ruskin’s Grave.

Explore Coniston


9 Ruskin places to visit around the county

1. Ruskin's grave in the churchyard of St Andrew's, Coniston, marked with a Celtic cross. How to get there

2. The Ruskin Memorial on Friar's Crag, overlooking Derwentwater, Keswick... View

3. Keswick Museum: Certain artefacts have connections to Ruskin including the musical stones and objects relating to the Keswick School of Industrial Arts More info

4. Porch Cottage, Keswick; former home/workshop of Marion Twelves, doyenne of the Ruskin Lace [reticella lace] movement.

5. St Kentigern's Church, Crosthwaite, displays Keswick School of Industrial Arts items. How to get there

6. Ruskin's View, over the Lune from Kirkby Lonsdale churchyard

7. The Armitt Museum & Library in Ambleside holds Ruskin material in its collection. Find out more

8. Tullie House, Carlisle displays some lovely Ruskin Lace. Find out more

9. Hawkshead Parish Church, St Michael and All Angels were all churches at which Ruskin sometimes attended Services.

Ruskin Lace

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