Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ruskin, John

(1819-1900) UK writer, poet and art critic. Although he wrote prodigiously, his impact on fantasy is more through his role as a critic and catalyst than as a direct contributor. His one major fantasy is The King of the Golden River (written 1841; dated 1851 but 1850), illus Richard Doyle. It tells of a young brother, Gluck, who is cruelly treated by his two elder brothers. Gluck is kind to an old man, though his brothers throw the man out. Thereafter they are cursed, but Gluck survives to break the Curse through his goodness. This was an early example of an English Children's Fantasy. JR was a strong advocate of imaginative work for children, opposing the strict moral tales of the previous generation. He became a champion of the Fairytale, writing an introduction to an 1868 edition of the Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales, and he encouraged the romantic exploration of art in all its forms. His ground-breaking essay "The Nature of Gothic" (in The Stones of Venice vol 2 1853) found in favour of the Gothic tradition and ushered in a revival of interest in Gothic art and architecture. His series of books called Modern Painters (1843-1860 5 vols) is a sweeping assessment of art and architecture as an expression of nature, which gave a stamp of approval to the Preraphaelites, particularly William Morris, on whom JR was a tremendous influence. He also supported and heavily influenced Kate Greenaway. Although JR antagonized many critics in his early years, his liberal attitude to art allowed Romanticism to break free of its restrictive roots and encouraged the greater diversity of art to flourish from the 1850s on. He was certainly one of the influences that allowed Fantasy to become established. [MA]

further reading: There are many books about JR. Of most interest are Ruskin, the Great Victorian (1949) by Derrick Leon; John Ruskin: The Portrait of a Prophet (1949) by Peter Quennell; John Ruskin (1954) by Joan Evans; and The Wider Sea (1982) by John Dixon Hunt.

John Ruskin


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.