that golden stain of time
That Golden Stain of Time John Ruskin (1819 — 1900) was the most important art critic of
era.An immensely gifted and prolific artist, writer, social critic, 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; 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.
What initially set out to be my interpretation of Ruskin's view that buildings 'connect
forgotten and following ages', became influenced more by Praeterita, the unfinished
autobiographical account of his early life, and the often troubled state of his mind in his
final years at Brantwood in The Lake District. From 1871 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 recurring episodes of delirium, visual hallucinations and
delusions, but his capacity for original thought and expression still occasionally transcended
the effects of his condition.
The focus of the project altered. Those who suffer from dementia often find comfort
in horticulture, landscape and nature and the images became more concerned
with the distant landscape viewed from within Brantwood. From its beautiful location, Ruskin
would have looked out from his study to Coniston Water and the changing seasons on Coniston
Old Man, the high fell opposite, to nature and the elements, key themes in his art and writing.
In his fragile state of mind, focal points 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.