John Ruskin: Artist and Observer

Feb 12, 2014, 11:00 ET from National Gallery of Canada

Discover the extraordinary and beautiful drawings and watercolours made by one of Victorian Britain's most eminent writers and thinkers

At the National Gallery of Canada
From February 14 to May 11, 2014

OTTAWA, Feb. 12, 2014 /CNW/ - Perhaps best known as one of Victorian Britain's leading art critics and theorists, John Ruskin (1819-1900) was famous for the breadth of his subject matter and variety of writing forms. Equally significant, though, are his extraordinary drawings and watercolours, which he made for very personal purposes. From February 14 to May 11, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) presents John Ruskin: Artist and Observer, an exhibition organized in partnership with the National Galleries of Scotland, which features artworks produced over a prolific 60-year career. To learn more about the exhibition and the activities surrounding it, visit

A rich diversity, a brilliant talent
This exhibition, the most ambitious ever to focus on the artistic qualities of Ruskin's work, brings together 140 drawings, watercolours and daguerreotypes representing varied subject matter, from architecture and landscape to nature studies. His drawings, with their lyricism and fluidity, meticulous detail and jewel-like colours, are a window into a brilliant and sometimes troubled soul.

As they walk through the exhibition, divided into seven themes, viewers will discover many of Ruskin's best-known and admired drawings, as well as others that are being exhibited in public for the first time. All the works are on loan from prestigious public and private collections in Great Britain, Canada and the United States, including The Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, and The British Museum. Christopher Newall and Conal Shields are the guest curators of this exhibition, which is coordinated by NGC Curator of Photographs, Ann Thomas.

A window into Ruskin's emotions 
Ruskin's artworks provide a commentary on his great intellectual projects and demonstrate the range of his obsessive interests. They also reveal a variety of emotions, from the artist's euphoric delight in pattern, colour and texture to his utter despondency over what he perceived as the ultimate corruption of all things. Drawing, for Ruskin, was therapeutic. It allowed him to meditate on every aspect of the physical world, to examine the minute details of a landscape or architectural site, to gather information and gain knowledge. He drew to observe and understand the world around him.

A 376-page catalogue with richly coloured illustrations accompanies John Ruskin: Artist and Observer. Christopher Newall's perceptive essay on Ruskin's drawings offers an examination of the experiences that influenced his draftmanship, while Conal Shields' essay astutely places Ruskin within the context of the art world. Ian Jeffrey has also contributed a fascinating essay chronicling the significance of the daguerreotype in Ruskin's works. Scottish National Portrait Gallery Director Christopher Baker also pens an essay on Ruskin's experience in Scotland. The catalogue is on sale at the NGC Bookstore for $45 and at, the Gallery's online boutique.

Meet the Expert
Friday, February 14 at 2 pm, tour the exhibition with curator Christopher Newall. In the exhibition space. Free with gallery admission. In English with bilingual question period.

Saturday, February 15 at 2 pm, The innocent eye: John Ruskin Revealed, by curator Christopher Newall. Free with gallery admission. In English with simultaneous interpretation and bilingual question period.

Ruskin Spotlight Talks
Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm, 10-minute talks on a work in the exhibition. In English.

Thursday Night Drawings
Thursdays from 6 to 8 pm, observational drawing session in the exhibition space. Free with gallery admission. Bilingual.

Thursdays February 20, March 20, and April 24 at 6 pm. In the Lecture Hall. Free with gallery admission. In English. This is Civilization, Episode 3, Save Our Souls, 2007. 49 minutes. Artist and critic Matthew Collings explores John Ruskin's ideas and his impact.

Music in the Galleries
Sunday, February 16 at 3 pm: René Gely performs music from the 19th century. Sunday, March 16 at 3 pm: Fabien Tousignant performs music from the 19th century.

Saturday, February 15 at 2 pm. Town and Country: Ruskin's Travels, by curator Christopher Newall. Free with gallery admission. In English with simultaneous interpretation and bilingual question period.

Walk through the exhibition with the national collection's audioguide and discover some 20 artworks from different themes. 6$ rental.

NGC Magazine, the National Gallery of Canada's online magazine, is a frequently updated source of information on the Canadian art world and events at the National Gallery of Canada.  Correspondents from across the country provide engaging and exclusive content on historical and contemporary art in Canada. This online magazine also includes interviews with artists. This month, read the article John Ruskin: Echoes of Stones.

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Tickets: $12 (adults); $10 (seniors and full-time students); $6 (youth: 12-19); $24 (families: two adults and three youth). Admission is free for children under the age of 12 and for Members. Includes admission to the NGC Collection.

The NGC is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Closed Mondays, including Remembrance Day, November 11. Open between December 26 and 31. Closed on December 25 and January 1. For more information call 613-990-1985 or 1-800-319-ARTS.

About the National Gallery of Canada 
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains an extensive touring art exhibition programme. For more information:

SOURCE National Gallery of Canada