Lancaster University Community Activities Day

On Saturday 13 September the University arranged a community activities day on campus, throwing its doors open to the local community and laying on special activities in different departments. This also coincided with the Heritage Open Days which run at the start of September each year.

The open day at the Ruskin Library was a huge success. There was barely a moment to rest as a constant stream of visitors flooded through the doors to see the building and the exhibition. People of all ages enjoyed a taste of the Ruskin Library workshops – sketching natural objects and making books.

Making Books

Making books at the Ruskin Library for University Community Activities Day and Heritage Open Days, 13 October 2014

Making Books

Making books at the Ruskin Library for University Community Activities Day and Heritage Open Days, 13 October 2014



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Ruskin Foundation launches annual London lecture series

The Ruskin Foundation, responsible for the UK’s largest archive of material relating to the life and work of the Victorian art and social critic, John Ruskin, will present the first of an annual series of London lectures on 18 September.

The lectures, which will be given by prominent public figures, have been made possible by a partnership with Sovereign Films, makers of the forthcoming film about Ruskin’s marriage, ‘Effie Gray’ to be released on 3 October.1996p1626 Ponte dei Pugni small

The first lecture, titled “Ruskin and Venice”, will be given by Anna Somers Cocks, the chief executive of The Art Newspaper and former chairman of Venice in Peril. She will reflect on Ruskin’s contribution to our understanding of Venice, in the light of the challenges that now confront the city.

The Ruskin Foundation was established in 1994 to promote the study of the ideas of John Ruskin (1819-1900). It has responsibility for the Whitehouse Collection of manuscripts, drawings, daguerreotypes, and books housed at the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University.

The Ruskin Library, which opened in 1998, is an award-winning building designed by the late Sir Richard MacCormac. It was specially designed to house and display the Whitehouse Collection, with an archive, reading room and public gallery.

The Whitehouse Collection is on long term loan to Lancaster University, which staffs and maintains the Ruskin Library and Research Centre, the UK’s only dedicated centre for research on Ruskin and his circle.

The Ruskin Foundation London Lecture is the second partnership with Sovereign Films. In 2012 a donation established “The Stones of Venice Fund”, to help researchers with travel and accommodation costs to encourage use of the Ruskin Library. The Ruskin Foundation exists to preserve the material legacy of John Ruskin, and to promote the study and dissemination of his ideas. It is a partnership between Lancaster University, Education Trust Ltd. (the owners of the Whitehouse Collection), and independent trustees.

Admission to the lecture is by ticket only. Lecture begins at 6.30pm 18th September 2014.

Venue: The Work Foundation, Part of Lancaster University, 21 Palmer Street, London SW1H 0AD. For tickets please contact Helen Wharton, telephone 015394 41396.

Posted in Lectures

Death of Sir Richard MacCormac


It is with great sadness we share the news of the death of Sir Richard MacCormac the Architect of the Ruskin Library.

In 2010 he revisited the Ruskin Library and gave a talk on the ideas behind the design and features of the building. A shortened version of the presentation along with photographs of the talk and the building is available at


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‘This Mountain Paradise': Ruskin on the Continent, 1835

12 May – 19 September 2014

By the time of the Ruskin family’s continental tour lasting from 2 June to 10 December 1835, the sixteen-year-old John Ruskin (1819-1900) was already a seasoned traveller. Taken by his parents John James and Margaret Ruskin to Scotland, the Lake District, Wales, the west of England and Kent between 1826 and 1832, he had also been with them to Paris and Brussels (including the field of Waterloo, in 1825) and across the Alps as far as Milan and Genoa in 1833. The 1835 itinerary helped to establish what would become Ruskin’s ‘old road,’ a familiar route through France and Switzerland into Italy.

1996P1437 Mount Pilatus

Both literature, especially the poems of Byron, and art were now important motivations. In 1832 Ruskin had received a birthday gift of Samuel Rogers’s Italy with engraved illustrations after J.M.W. Turner, including one of Venice, which now became a specific goal.   As a successful wine merchant, John James Ruskin could afford to take the family abroad in Turner’s footsteps, even taking their own coach.

The largest number of the 100 or more existing drawings made by Ruskin on the tour now form part of the Whitehouse Collection in the Ruskin Library. The majority are of Switzerland, which he later called “this mountain Paradise.” Mostly in pencil, some were engraved as illustrations for The Poetry of Architecture, his first important piece of writing, which appeared in The Architectural Magazine in 1837-38. There are also a few known attempts to turn drawings into finished watercolours: these are effectively Ruskin’s earliest works in the medium; of the handful that have been identified, two are in this exhibition.

Posted in Exhibitions

John Ruskin: Artist and Observer

National Gallery of Canada

14 February – 11 May

The Ruskin Foundation is a major lender to this exhibition, which will also be shown at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh from 4 July − 28 September 2014

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John Ruskin – Photographer and Draughtsman

The Ruskin Library has loaned 40 drawings and photographs to this exhibition

1996D110 croplightenedJohn Ruskin – Photographer and Draughtsman

Watts Gallery, Compton, near Guildford

4 February to 1 June 2014

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‘The Master’s Hand': drawings by G.F. Watts

27 January – 17 April 2014

The Ruskin Library is swapping exhibitions with the Watts Gallery at Compton, near Guildford.  Established in 1904, the Gallery reached the final of the BBC2 Restoration series in 2006 and has since undergone major refurbishment.  It commemorates the great Victorian artist George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817-1904), recognised at home and abroad as a painter who could preach eternal truths and provoke social reform.  A lifelong friend of John Ruskin, he was a versatile painter and sculptor who has been called ‘England’s Michelangelo,’ achieving fame in several genres: history painting; symbolic representations of profound themes, such as Hope; portraits of leading writers, artists and politicians (especially in his ‘Hall of Fame’ series); and powerful sculptures, from Clytie to Physical Energy.

Watts was a superb draughtsman, and the new Ruskin Library exhibition consists of 40 drawings covering all aspects and periods of his work, from youthful exercises and Italian landscapes to preparatory studies for some of his most famous paintings, including Love and Death and The All-Pervading.  Portrait drawings include one of the actress Ellen Terry, whom Watts married in 1864, and Mrs Leslie Stephen, mother of Virginia Woolf.

In return, the Ruskin Foundation has lent 20 drawings and 20 daguerreotype photographs to the Watts Gallery, for an exhibition John Ruskin – Photographer and Draughtsman, which runs from 4 February to 1 June.

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G.F. Watts: Study for Clytie. (c) Watts Gallery
Posted in Exhibitions