Saturday Study Events in Art History
Our Saturday Study Events offer an intense engagement with works of art in their cultural contexts. They are led by one, two or more expert speakers and happen once a term.
The next Saturday Study Event will take place on 23 March at Vernon Square, 2-4 pm, with registration from 1.30 pm and a coffee break at 2.45.
Dr Thomas Hughes
John Ruskin had a difficult relationship with modernity, regarding it with contempt, and probably also with fear. To him, modernity meant unbridled capitalism, individualism, religious hypocrisy and spiritual bankruptcy. It meant the rapid expansion of filthy cities of drab buildings full of people pursuing pointless lives, it meant blindness to the majesty and minute complexity of nature, and above all it meant awful painting.
However, the Victorian art critic and social thinker was not the diehard reactionary of popular imagination and recently, a number of sympathetic bicentenary exhibitions and reviews have begun to re-evaluate Ruskin’s ideas. Through his writing, he sought to make art more beautiful, honest and accessible in order to improve society. The title of Ruskin’s first, major book was ‘Modern Painters’ and his personal motto was simply ‘To-Day’. Art and society were to be improved not by stopping the clock, but by engaging with the here and now, for tomorrow. Yet Ruskin, a superlative contrarian, often put his radical ideas about art and society into words, images and forms drawn from the past or even from a fantasy of England’s past. This gives Ruskin’s work more than an appearance of anachronism.
At our Study afternoon, I shall focus on four works of art which each characterise a central strand of Ruskin’s thought. Fanning out to take in a wide range of drawings by Ruskin himself and paintings and objects discussed by him, we shall explore his vision for a reinvented Gothic architecture, for a daringly modern yet ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ painting, and for a whole new way of looking at the natural world.
By the end of the afternoon, we shall come to see that it is actually the contradictoriness in Ruskin’s ways of thinking about art, the past and the present, that makes up his modernity.
Dr Thomas Hughes is an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art. He completed his PhD at The Courtauld in 2018 on the art writings of John Ruskin and Walter Pater and the art of the Aesthetic Movement. His research interests are in art and aesthetics in nineteenth-century Britain and the writing of art history.
Spaces are limited and advance booking is necessary.
£35 (£30 concs.) For further information, and to be book, contact
Short.firstname.lastname@example.org or t: +44 (0)203 9477 650