Denis Cosgrove selects works from Ruskin’s Teaching Collection and reveals a poetry of landscape that inspired geographical learning a century ago.
In the architecture and morphology of the medieval city Ruskin discovered the physical expression of what he took to be a perfect social order: a Christian, guild-based society founded on ideals of apprenticeship, skilled manual labour and honest trade in which the free craftsman celebrated in art God’s presence in nature. These ideals, famously summarised in 'The Nature of Gothic' (1853) informed Ruskin’s radical critique of the modern city and its social order, a continuing concern among social geographers in the century following his death.
'The main detail of a little group of houses in some completeness; but it would take a month to draw even this small group rightly, and it is totally beyond any man’s power, unless on terms of work like Albert Dürer’s, to express adequately the mere 'contents' of architectural beauty in any general view of the Grand Canal.' (13:500)
All references to Ruskin's writings are taken from The Works of Ruskin, Library Edition, 39 volumes, edited by E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, George Allen, London, 1903-1912 and given by volume number and page.