|A self portrait by Ruskin|
The exhibition is called "Artist and Observer." Ruskin was sensitive to the point of insanity. On his wedding night in 1848, his observations (or whatever) shocked him out to such an extent that the marriage was never consummated and was eventually, in 1854, annulled. In the end his wife Effie married Millais instead, a story that reminds me of Dorothea, Casaubon and Will Ladislaw in George Eliot's Middlemarch. It is alleged that Ruskin was also in love with a very young Irish girl called Rose La Touche, whose death devasted him.
|Study of Gneiss Rock|
People tried to chivvy Ruskin into being normal. As a youth, his father had insisted on his mastering the art of drawing, because that's what young gentlemen did. As they toured Europe together, Ruskin drew every place he visited, cathedrals, bridges, streets. His technique improved rapidly and his sketches of architectural detail––cornices, arches, capitals, the painted details––were as exact as photographs. He was interested in daguerrotypes too. Eventually he chose natural subjects, too: studying the appearance of rocks and trees in great detail, fruit and flowers, or a bird's feather. His sketches are similar to Dürer's in their meticulousness and intensity.
|Vineyard Walk, Lucca, 1874|