Tag Archives: “Stones of Venice”

John Ruskin

Brantwood, the home of English writer/critic/artist John Ruskin, is one of many enchanting sights in the Lake District of northern England. Ruskin bought this lakeshore home in 1872 and lived there for the rest of his life.  I can see why.


The house and gardens are on the shore of beautiful Coniston Water.


The cafe is called the Jumping Jenny, after the boat Ruskin used to potter around the lake on.  His boat probably looked like one of these.


Ruskin’s study is crammed with evidence of his wide and varied interests and expertise:  in the natural world, scientific discoveries, literature, architecture, design, art, history, and any number of other fields.  He had advanced social views for his time, too.  One of his concerns was the plight of the worker in the industrial age.  He felt that modern manufacturing demanded that workers give up their most human qualities, to everyone’s detriment.

This quotation, on a placard in Ruskin’s study, caught my eye:  “You can teach a man to draw a straight line, and to cut one; to strike a curved line, and to carve it; and to copy and carve any number of given lines and forms, with admirable speed and precision, and you find his work is perfect of its kind; but if you ask  him to think about any of those forms, to consider if he cannot find any better in his own head, he stops; his execution becomes hesitating…But you have made a man of him for all that. He was only a machine before, an animated tool.”  The words are from Ruskins book “Stones of Venice.”

John Ruskin in 1863, photograph by William Downey, Public Domain

John Ruskin in 1863, photograph by William Downey, Public Domain

If I were given a chance to meet 10 people from the past, John Ruskin would be high on my list. And I’d make arrangements to meet him at his home in the Lake District!

Join me next time for more explorations in European history and art!