Ruskin Library open for Heritage Open Days

1996P0917 Fribourg (c) Ruskin Foundation (Ruskin Library, Lancaster University)

John Ruskin, Red Tower, Fribourg (1856)

The Ruskin Library is taking part in Heritage Open Days again this year and will be open between 11am and 4pm on Saturday 12th September.

There will be still life drawing materials available all day in the gallery with a lovely selection of natural objects to chose from. Try your hand at copying some of John Ruskin’s tower drawings or sketches, or just come and look at our lovely current exhibition ‘Towers and Turrets’.

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Ruskin’s Zipporah on her travels again.

Ruskin’s famous full size copy of Botticelli’s ‘Zipporah’ (1874) 1996P0880 Zipporah
travels to Berlin to feature in The Botticelli Renaissance at the Gemäldegalerie, Kulturforum, 24 September 2015 – 24 January 2016.

The exhibition will then travel to the V&A in London and will open as Botticelli Reimagined  5 March 2016 – 3 July 2016.  The exhibition will explore the ways that artists and designers have reinterpreted Botticelli. It will include over 50 original works by Botticelli, alongside works by artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, René Magritte, Elsa Schiaparelli, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.


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New Exhibition – Towers and Turrets

Towers and Turrets

Ruskin’s first concerted effort to observe details of towers was in the years 1832 – 1837.

Careful observation of all aspect of ‘the architecture of nations‘ resulted in one of his earliest published works The Poetry of Architecture, published in parts in the Architectural Magazine 1837 and 1838. His tour of 1835 and 1837 produced copious studies of church towers and market square across Britain and Europe, and this collection holds a wealth of these early works. Later tours abroad saw an emerging interest in detailed studies of the church architecture, such as his study of Rouen Cathedral, and a love of Swiss and German towns. The towers of Fribourg, the walls of Lucerne, the beauty of Baden appear again and again through the vast range and diversity of his interests. Towers and turrets remain a constant theme throughout his work whether as individual studies or as part of the wider landscape.

Open until 30 September 2015

Tower and Wall, Fribourf

Tower and Wall, Fribourg

Tower at Thun

Tower at Thun

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Ruskin Review and Bulletin

The latest edition of the Ruskin Review and Bulletin is now available!  It includes Sara Stevenson writing on Philip Gilbert Hamerton  and Malcolm Hardman’s ‘Who is Silvia?’.

To subscribe, go to

or, if you want to buy this edition only, please contact the Ruskin Library.

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Gallery Closure – Update

We’re pleased to say that the Gallery is now open again!

Until May 27 – Returned Triumphant: loans to the exhibition ‘John Ruskin, Artist and Observer

Opening June 1 – Towers and Turrets

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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.

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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))

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