John Ruskin Artist: A New Exhibition At The National Gallery Canada

The extraordinary and beautiful drawings and watercolours created by one of Victorian Britain’s most eminent writers and thinkers, John Ruskin is the subject of an interesting new exhibition in Ottawa Canada. Perhaps best known as one of Victorian Britain’s leading art critics and theorists, John Ruskin (1819–1900) was famous for the breadth of his subject matter and variety of writing forms. Equally significant, though, are his extraordinary drawings and watercolours, which he made for very personal purposes. From February 14 to May 11, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) presents John Ruskin: Artist and Observer, an exhibition organized in partnership with the National Galleries of Scotland, which features artworks produced over a prolific 60-year career. To learn more about the exhibition and the activities surrounding it, visit

A rich diversity, a brilliant talent
This exhibition, the most ambitious ever to focus on the artistic qualities of Ruskin’s work, brings together 140 drawings, watercolours and daguerreotypes representing varied subject matter, from architecture and landscape to nature studies. His drawings, with their lyricism and fluidity, meticulous detail and jewel-like colours, are a window into a brilliant and sometimes troubled soul.

As they walk through the exhibition, divided into seven themes, viewers will discover many of Ruskin’s best-known and admired drawings, as well as others that are being exhibited in public for the first time. All the works are on loan from prestigious public and private collections in Great Britain, Canada and the United States, including The Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, and The British Museum. Christopher Newall and Conal Shields are the guest curators of this exhibition, which is coordinated by NGC Curator of Photographs, Ann Thomas.

Ruskin’s artworks provide a commentary on his great intellectual projects and demonstrate the range of his obsessive interests. They also reveal a variety of emotions, from the artist’s euphoric delight in pattern, colour and texture to his utter despondency over what he perceived as the ultimate corruption of all things. Drawing, for Ruskin, was therapeutic. It allowed him to meditate on every aspect of the physical world, to examine the minute details of a landscape or architectural site, to gather information and gain knowledge. He drew to observe and understand the world around him.           

February 14 to May 11, 2014 National Gallery of Canada Ottawa

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