John Ruskin

Date of birth: 1819 — Date of death: 1900

Son of the successful Scottish wine merchant John James Ruskin (1785-1864) and Margaret Cox (1781-1871). Ruskin started drawing lessons at the age of twelve with Charles Runciman, and six years later enrolled at Christ College, Oxford. He became the most influential writer and critic of his day, with his five volume 'Modern Painters' published from 1843-1860. Ruskin met John Everett Millais (1829-1896) and William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) respectively in 1851 and 1851. Having promoted the work of Joseph M W Turner (1775-1851), Ruskin became a great defender of the Pre-Raphaelites. His 'Academy Notes' (1855-9), for example, placed particular emphasis on their work, though his famous first encounter with Madox Brown in 1855 was somewhat hostile. In 1853, Ruskin and his wife, Euphemia (Effie) Gray (1828-1897) spent the summer at Glenfinlas, near Brig O'Turk in Scotland with Millais. Here Millais began work on the most famous portrait of Ruskin, and fell in love with Effie. The following year, the Ruskin's marriage was annulled and Effie married Millais in 1855. In spite of these marital difficulties, John Ruskin published the third and forth volumes of 'Modern Painters' in 1856 and the fifth volume in 1860. It was during this time that the friendship between Ruskin and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) developed, with Ruskin offering his patronage to the artist. The relationship, however, eventually soured. Ruskin became a patron of the London Working Men's College, where he taught from 1854 until 1861. In 1855 he began to financially support Elizabeth Siddal as an artist, and developed other significant relationships with Edward Burne Jones (1833-1899) and Ruskin's future publisher George Allen (1832-1907). Ruskin was appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University in 1869. Ruskin's mental health began to deteriorate over the following years and in 1878, he suffered his first breakdown. He moved to Brantwood on Coniston Water in 1872 and suffered a severe breakdown in 1889.

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