How reality cannot be true

As the most popular art critic of the Victorian era, John Ruskin was possibly the most influential intellectulual in 19th century England. After a period of relative decline, his reputation steadily improved since the 1960s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work.

Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognised as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft.

Ruskin first came to widespread attention with the first volume of “Modern Painters” when he was 24 years old, an extended essay in defence of the work of Joseph Turner in which he argued that the principal role of the artist is to be "true to nature".

According to his reflection, art has nothing to do with reality, art needs to provide forms of interpretation of what “truth” is: art creates, it does not have to imitate nature.

Marcel Proust confessed that after reading Modern Painters “I rediscovered the infinite value of the universe”.

In our very distracted times, Ruskin reminds us the importance of concentrated looking, that art is there to open the mind and inspire fresh ways of interpreting what is around us.


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