light years don fitzpatrick light years don fitzpatrick

about : john ruskin

« That Golden Stain of Time » John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) was the most important art critic of the Victorian era. An immensely gifted and prolific artist, writer, social reformer, teacher and patron of Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites; his work influenced Gandhi, Tolstoy, Proust and many others. A true polymath, his ideas, forthright and visionary, are just as relevant today as they were in his lifetime. Modern Painters, The Stones of Venice, The Seven Lamps of Architecture —  masterpieces of art criticism, are only a few of his many writings that remain in print today.
        What set out to be my interpretation of Ruskin's view that 'buildings connect forgotten and following ages' became more influenced by Praeterita, the unfinished autobiographical account of his early life and the often troubled state of his mind during his final years at Brantwood. (His home in the English Lake District.) From 1872 Ruskin suffered from what is now thought to have been dementia. Although there has been much conjecture over this diagnosis, there is no doubt that he suffered episodes of delirium, visual hallucinations and delusions, but his capacity for original thought and expression remained undimmed and often transcended the affects of his condition.
        The focus of the project altered. Those who suffer from dementia often find comfort in horticulture, landscape and nature; the images became more concerned with the distant landscape viewed from within Brantwood. From its beautiful location above Coniston Water, Ruskin would have looked out from his study and followed the changing seasons on Coniston Old Man, the high fell opposite his study, to nature and the elements, key themes in his art and writing. In his fragile state of mind, focal points in the landscape would have become sensory experiences, the solace of place, the comfort of memory and reflection.
        Ruskin used daguerreotypes when documenting his architectural research for The Stones of Venice. Walker Evans, when reflecting upon his own photography of buildings, wrote of: 'the quiet collapse of all things under the pressure of time'. The thought could be applied to Ruskin's state of mind in his final years at Brantwood.