Black and white photograph of a young John Ruskin wearing a suit.

John Ruskin

(1819 - 1900)

John Ruskin composed most of The Seven Lamps of Architecture amid the upheavals of 1848, and in the preface he wrote of the defacement that recently had been wrought “by the restorer or revolutionist.” He coined the term pathetic fallacy to mean the attribution of human traits or emotions to inanimate objects or animals. His marriage to Euphemia Gray was annulled in 1854 on the grounds that it had not been consummated, although in a legal deposition Ruskin claimed, “I can prove my virility at once.” In 1878 James McNeill Whistler sued Ruskin for libel after his attack on the painter’s Nocturne in Black and Gold. Whistler won a farthing and went bankrupt; Ruskin’s reputation was forever tarnished.

All Writing


“Considering how seldom people think of looking for sunset at all, and how seldom, if they do, they are in a position from which it can be fully seen,” it’s rare to witness an excellent one, John Ruskin argued in 1843. Evelyn Waugh saw a radiant pink sunset behind a shadow-gray Mount Etna in 1929. “Nothing I have ever seen in Art or Nature,” he wrote, “was quite so revolting.”

If you have any soul worth expressing, it will show itself in your singing.

—John Ruskin, 1865

All traveling becomes dull in exact proportion to its rapidity.

—John Ruskin, 1856

Voices In Time

1853 | Venice

Everlasting Laws

“To banish imperfection is to destroy expression.”More

In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have a sense of success in it.

—John Ruskin, 1850

I do not mean to call an elephant a vulgar animal, but if you think about him carefully, you will find that his nonvulgarity consists in such gentleness as is possible to elephantine nature—not in his insensitive hide, nor in his clumsy foot, but in the way he will lift his foot if a child lies in his way; and in his sensitive trunk, and still more sensitive mind, and capability of pique on points of honor.

—John Ruskin, 1860

Issues Contributed