Gallery Closure

The Gallery at the Ruskin Library is CLOSED for refurbishment and will reopen on Thursday 7 May.

The Reading Room is open by appointment as normal.

It is possible that work will be completed earlier than this date. Please contact the Ruskin Library for updates – please contact us at or 01524 593587 to check.

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized

Carrying off the Palaces

Last week saw the launch of a superb book by Ken and Jenny Jacobson, Carrying Off the Palaces: John Ruskin’s Lost Daguerreotypes, Quaritch, 2015

The book begins with the astounding story of discovery of long-lost daguerreotypes.  The earliest form of permanent photography, in the form of one-off images produced on small metal plates, held a fascination for Ruskin between 1845 and 1858.   A lot described as a mahogany box containing 19th century photographs on metal, with an estimated value of £80, was bought by the collectors and photographic historians Ken and Jenny Jacobson for £75,000 at a sale in Penrith in 2006.  After nine years of research and the conservation of the 188 daguerreotypes, the Jacobsons have produced a magnificent account, together with a full catalogue of all 325 Ruskin daguerreotypes known to date, including those held by the Ruskin Foundation at the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University.

The Ruskin Library holds 125 of Ruskin’s daguerreotypes, conserved between 2002 and 2005 with the aid of the Heritage Lottery Fund. These were purchased by John Howard Whitehouse in 1933 for £5 from Stevens and Brown, literary and art agents. Ralph Brown attended the Brantwood sale in July 1931, and purchased many items for Whitehouse, but also made other purchases for his firm, which he often resold at great profit. An annotated sales catalogue in this collection indicates that Brown purchased lots 134 and 320, two boxes tentatively identified in the Jacobsons’ book.

Lot 134 – described as ‘Mahogany Case with brass handles containing large quantity of photographic plates’, then in the Study – was sold on the first day of the sale for 6 shillings. Lot 320, from the Old Dining Room, was included in day two and listed as ‘Mahogany Brass fitted Box with numerous photograph frames’; it sold for 10 shillings. Both were bought by Brown, with whom Whitehouse had many dealings over the years.  Why he acquired only one of the lots, of 125 daguerreotypes accompanied by a brass-handled mahogany box with ‘Tuscany 1846’ on the lid, remains unexplained.  The recently discovered daguerreotypes, many in a box labelled ‘Venice’, can be presumed to be the second lot, having remained in Cumbria unappreciated for over 70 years.

The staff of the Ruskin Library have enjoyed working with Ken and Jenny in the course of their research, and look forward to reading the completed work in this wonderful book.

St Marks, Venice (Ruskin Foundation (Ruskin Libtary, Lancaster University))

Posted in Books, Uncategorized

Ruskin Review and Bulletin

On Sale now!

The latest edition of the Ruskin Review and Bulletin is available now – the Ruskin Library can give you more details.

For more information – and to take out a subscription for the next volume – go to

Posted in Books

Returned triumphant: Loans to the exhibition John Ruskin, Artist and Observer

Returned triumphant: watercolours and drawings lent to the exhibition John Ruskin: Artist and Observer

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 14 February – 11 May 2014
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, 4 July – 28 September

The Ruskin Library (Ruskin Foundation) was the largest single lender to the recent exhibition of Ruskin drawings and daguerreotypes, the most comprehensive since the Tate Britain centenary exhibition in 2000.  This reflects the standing of the Ruskin Library in holding the most important collection of Ruskin’s work in the world.

All 49 loans (out of 132 items) are shown in this display, including ten of the twelve daguerreotype photographs used in the exhibition to emphasise Ruskin’s concentration on drawing and recording what he saw, as a means of understanding both nature and human endeavour, especially in the finest Gothic architecture of northern Europe.

Several of the most celebrated works from the Whitehouse Collection are displayed, including The Walls of Lucerne (1866), Vineyard Walk, Lucca (1874) and The North-West Porch of St. Mark’s, Venice (1877).  This is a rare chance to see these together, alongside others covering the whole range of Ruskin’s life and interests, over nearly half a century.

1996P1206 Chamonix, Mer de Glace

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized


The Ruskin Library has loaned works to two exhibitions which have opened recently

Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 22 November 2014 – 22 February 2015

“Confessions of the Imperfect 1849 – 1989 – Today”

 An exhibition inspired by Ruskin’s ideas which juxtaposes Ruskin’s work in a contemporary context and a thought provoking way.

Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, 22 November 2014 – 12 April 2015

“Art and Soul: Victorians and the Gothic”

 This exhibition presents a rare opportunity to see works by some of the greatest 19th-century artists and designers including works by John Ruskin from the Ruskin Library.

Posted in Exhibitions

Permanence and Fragility: Paintings and Drawings by Victoria Crowe

13 October – 12 December 2014

Lilies DrawingVictoria Crowe is well known for portraits of artists, writers and scientists including the poet Kathleen Raine (National Portrait Gallery), actor Graham Crowden (Scottish NPG) and most recently Prof. Peter Higgs, for the Royal Society of Edinburgh.   She is a member of the Royal Scottish Academy, and was appointed OBE in 2004.

More widely, her work embraces both figure and landscape, often in striking combination.  The series A Shepherd’s Life (1970-1985) focuses on life in the Scottish Borders, and one subject has been converted into tapestry by Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh.

She has a passion for the natural world, and also spends much time in Venice, which has inspired large paintings redolent with images of the city’s buildings and history.  These interests echo those of John Ruskin.

Reflections on the City_lightenedWhile the full range of her painting covers landscape, still lifes, portraits, self-portraits and interiors, much of her work defies such precise categorisation. Permanence and Fragility is an exhibition of paintings and drawings of plant forms and Venice, as selected by Stephen Wildman, the curator of the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University. Victoria Crowe’s work will be displayed alongside Ruskin’s Venetian and botanical works offering many points of connection and showing the striking similarities of two Artists centuries apart.

Posted in Exhibitions

Ruskin at Turner Contemporary, Margate

The Ruskin Library has loaned pictures, books and manuscripts to Jeremy Deller’s ‘English Magic’ exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Margate. The Turner Prize-winning artist, Jeremy Deller, represented the UK with ‘English Magic’ at the 2013 Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious contemporary art event. For the first time in the Biennale’s history the exhibition has been reconfigured for a UK tour, and John Ruskin’s work is included in this final showcase at Turner Contemporary:

“Deller uses ‘English Magic’ to explore mysterious acts and ‘magical’ transformations in British society – its people, myths and folklore as well as its broad cultural, socio-political and economic history.

The mythical power of popular music, the transformative promise of socialist movements and the trickery and concealment of politicians, oligarchs and big businesses all come under the spotlight as Deller assembles large-scale murals, drawings, photographs, film and historical materials to question what Englishness really means today.

From Neolithic hand axes, through William Morris, John Ruskin and the socialist movement, to David Bowie’s 1972 Ziggy Stardust UK tour, 21st Century capitalism and the invasion of Iraq, the exhibition weaves a mythical narrative through moments and events from Britain’s shared cultural memory, moving back and forth between the past, present and an imagined future.

For Turner Contemporary, a number of watercolours, sketchbooks and paintings of Venice by JMW Turner and John Ruskin have been added to the exhibition. Both artists, along with William Morris, a central character in the exhibition, were radical figures in Victorian society and campaigned for social and political change.”

RF 1059

Mosaics of Olive Tree and Flowers c.1852

Ruskin’s works on display include illustrations for ‘The Stones of Venice’; Ruskin’s 1849 Diary Notebook; the Kelmscott Press edition of ‘The Nature of Gothic: A Chapter of the Stones of Venice’ with a preface by William Morris; ‘Unto This Last’ – four essays portraying deep concern about the economic and social order, and the materialism of the age and ‘A Morris Dance Round St Mark’s’ published in Punch, 1880.

RF 1028

Byzantine Sculpture, Venice 1851-52

English Magic 11 October 2014 – 11 January 2015 Free admission

Posted in Exhibitions