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Very Short Introductions #72: Architecture: A Very Short Introductionby Andrew Ballantyne
Synopses & Reviews
John Ruskin (1819and#150;1900) was the most prominent art and architecture critic of his time. Yet his reputation has been overshadowed by his personal life, especially his failed marriage to Effie Gray, which has cast him in the history books as little more than a Victorian prude. In this book, Andrew Ballantyne rescues Ruskin from the dustbin of historyand#8217;s trifles to reveal a deeply attuned thinker, one whose copious writings had tremendous influence on all classes of society, from roadmenders to royalty.
Ballantyne examines a crucial aspect of Ruskinand#8217;s thinking: the notion that art and architecture have moral value. Telling the story of Ruskinand#8217;s childhood and enduring devotion to his parentsand#151;who fostered his career as a writer on art and architectureand#151;he explores the circumstances that led to Ruskinand#8217;s greatest works, such as Modern Painters, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, The Stones of Venice, and Unto This Last. He follows Ruskin through his altruistic ventures with the urban poor, to whom he taught drawing, motivated by a profound conviction that art held the key to living a worthwhile life. Ultimately, Ballantyne weaves Ruskinand#8217;s story into a larger one about Victorian society, a time when the first great industrial cities took shape and when art could finally reach beyond the wealthy elite and touch the lives of everyday people.and#160;
John Ruskin (1819-1900) was the most prominent art and architecture critic of his day. His books, pamphlets, and letters to the press had an influence on all classes of society, from road-menders to royalty. He still has a popular reputation in the twenty-first century, though he is remembered today less for his views than for his failed marriage. His wife Effie Gray left him for the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais, whose work until then Ruskin had been promoting. Ruskin is more often the image of a Victorian prude, but of course there was more to him than that.
In this book Andrew Ballantyne shows us how Ruskinand#8217;s ideas gave a clear moral character to art, architecture, and the picturesque and reveals why and how his reputation endures. Ruskinand#8217;s story is the story of a family: the important people in Ruskinand#8217;s life were his devoted parents, who were convinced that their son was a genius. Ruskinand#8217;s greatest and most personal enthusiasm was for geology, but it was a passion that remained under-developed as he obliged his father by writing about art and architecture, and his mother by showing that these things had a moral and spiritual value. They were a great team, and while they were alive Ruskin wrote his best works: Modern Painters, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, The Stones of Venice and Unto This Last. After they died he seemed lost until he put himself in the hands of a younger cousin, Joan Severn, who guarded her idea of his reputation as his mental capacities declined, out of the public gaze, in the Lake District.
Ballantyne weaves Ruskinand#8217;s life and work into a narrative about Victorian society: Ruskin lived at a time when the first great industrial cities took shape, and he was horrified by the conditions of life of the poorer urban workers. His solution was to open the eyes of the working classes to beauty and wonder, by teaching them to draw. Ruskinand#8217;s evangelical passion came from his conviction that art and architecture were much more than polite accomplishments: that they held the key to living a worthwhile life.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 125-127) and index.
This highly original and sophisticated look at architecture helps us to understand the cultural significance of the buildings that surround us. It avoids the traditional style-spotting approach and instead gives us an idea of what it is about buildings that moves us, and what it is that makes them important artistically and culturally. The book begins by looking at how architecture acquires meaning through tradition, and concludes with the exoticism of the recent avant-garde period. Illustrations of particular buildings help to anchor the general points with specific examples, from ancient Egypt to the present day.
About the Author
Andrew Ballantyne qualified and practised as an architect, and then moved into academic work. He has held research and teaching posts at the universities of Sheffield, Bath, and Newcastle, where he is now Professor of Architecture. He has written on architectural history and theory, and his previous books are Architecture, Landscape and Liberty and What is Architecture?.
Table of Contents
1. Adding Value: how buildings become architecture
2. Architectural Heritage: how buildings tell us who we are
3. Architectural Canons: how architecture achieves greatness
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