Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow


John Ruskin

Nationality: English
Date of birth: 1819.02.08
Place of birth: London
Date of death: 1900.01.20
Place of death: Brantwood
Category: art critic


John Ruskin was a critic, social reformer, conservationist and artist. In 1848 he married Euphemia Gray but this was later annulled.


Ruskin was an influential art critic, who promoted the work of Turner and the PreRaphaelites. In 1869 he vbecame the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University, and in 1871 founded his art school there. In January 1871, the month before Ruskin started to lecture at Oxford, he began his series of irregularly published 'letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Britain' under the title Fors Clavigera (1871–84).

His criticism of Whistler's Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket y170, published in Fors Clavigera in July 1877, resulted in the libel case brought by Whistler against him. 'Whistler v. Ruskin' was heard at the Old Bailey on 25 and 26 November 1878. This resulted in Whistler being awarded only one farthing in damages, a primary cause of his bankruptcy. In December, Whistler published his account of the trial, the first of his brown-paper pamphlets, Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, London, 1878. This was reprinted in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890.


Whistler, James McNeill, Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, London, 1878 ; Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London, 1890 .

Ruskin, John, Modern Painters, London, 1843-1860 . Ruskin, John, Fors Clavigera. Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain, London, 1871-1884 . Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth', Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213.

Merrill, Linda, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in 'Whistler v. Ruskin', Washington and London, 1992; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.

Works of John Ruskin: Modern Painters at Ruskin Library & Research Centre, Lancaster University, website. Shrimpton, Nicholas, 'John Ruskin', Encyclopedia Britannica website. 'John Ruskin', Wikipedia.

'Who Was John Ruskin [1819 – 1900]?', The Ruskin museum website.

The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, 1855-1903, edited by Margaret F. MacDonald, Patricia de Montfort and Nigel Thorp; including The Correspondence of Anna McNeill Whistler, 1855-1880, edited by Georgia Toutziari. On-line edition, University of Glasgow.

Cook, E. T., and Alexander Wedderburn (eds), The Works of John Ruskin, 39 vols., London, 1903-1912 .