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Expert Reaction: ‘Ruskin, Turner & The Storm Cloud’ exhibition launch

Posted on 28 March 2019

An art historian at the University of York comments on the launch of the ‘Ruskin, Turner, and the Storm Cloud’ exhibition at York Art Gallery, which marks 200 years since John Ruskin’s birth.

JMW Turner's work was a particular inspiration to John Ruskin

Dr Richard Johns from the University of York’s Department of History of Art, and co-curator of the exhibition, said: “John Ruskin spoke passionately about an encroaching ‘Storm Cloud’ in a lecture at the London Institution in 1884.

"Drawing on many years’ observation, Ruskin’s vision of a darkening sky revealed his deep concern about the negative environmental impact of modern industrial methods. 

“The scientific community of the time, however, were unimpressed by Ruskin’s theories, which pointed to environmental phenomena that contemporary instruments could not measure.

Natural world

“Taking Ruskin’s ‘Storm Cloud’ as a point of departure, the new exhibition explores the importance of the work of JMW Turner for Ruskin’s understanding of the natural world.

"With Turner’s vibrant landscapes running through his mind, Ruskin encouraged his audiences to pay close attention to the world around them, and to consider the impact of human actions on the environment at a local and global level.

“The exhibition also explores Ruskin’s struggles with mental health, which came to have a profound effect on the way he interpreted the world around him.


“Rather than present Ruskin’s art and writing as a prophecy of climate change as now understood, the exhibition foregrounds the broader relevance of his environmental way of looking. Throughout his life Ruskin demonstrated the value of close observation, critical thinking and a willingness to be outspoken.”

Ruskin, Turner, & The Storm Cloud’ opens at York Art Gallery on the 29 March 2019.

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