Sep. 28, 2019–Jan. 6, 2020
Huntington Gallery, Works on Paper Room
John Ruskin (British, 1819–1900), Geneva from the Rhone, undated, 1842 or 1846, watercolor, graphite pencil, and colored chalk on wove blue paper. Gilbert Davis Collection, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775–1851), Saint Goarshausen and Katz Castle by Moonlight, 1817, watercolor with scraping out on wove paper. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
Kate Greenaway (British, 1846–1901), May Day, ca. 1890, pen and brown ink, watercolor and graphite pencil on wover paper. Purchased with funds from the Statch Memorial Fund, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (British, 1828–1882), Caricature Sketch of Pre-Raphaelites, 1851, pen and wash. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834–1903), The Lime-Burner, 1859, etching with drypoint and plate tone on laid paper. Gift of Russel I. Kully, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
This exhibition brings together 16 works by artists whose careers have either been lauded or criticized by John Ruskin, the Victorian writer and polymath. While he had steadfast friends and several outright enemies, Ruskin's relationships with many artists were more complicated than that, often combining a level of support with a great deal of criticism. We might go so far as to call them "frenemies." The selection, drawn from The Huntington's permanent collection, includes works by Turner, members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Edward Burne-Jones, the great illustrator Kate Greenaway, Whistler, and Ruskin himself.
2019 marks the bicentennial of the birth of John Ruskin. He published on topics as varied as geology, architecture, and political economy, was a skilled draftsman and watercolorist, art collector and patron, preservationist, and philanthropist. As the most prominent art critic of the period, Ruskin's writings helped shape the art of his time and affected the careers of many British artists. He championed the art of J.M.W. Turner, defended the Pre-Raphaelites against hostile reviews, and inspired William Morris to establish his Arts & Crafts design firm. However, as much as he praised artists whose style, technique, or subject matter aligned with his own approach, he could be strongly critical of others. James McNeill Whistler even went so far as to sue for libel when Ruskin equated one of his paintings to "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face."
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