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Ruskin And Morris Notes

History Notes > Intellect and Culture in Victorian Britain Notes

This is an extract of our Ruskin And Morris document, which we sell as part of our Intellect and Culture in Victorian Britain Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Oxford students.

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Victorian
Art

Contents

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Ruskin and Morris Tutorial
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Carlyle, Ruskin and Morris: Cultural Criticism Class
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John Ruskin -- R. Hewison
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William Morris -- F. MacCarthy
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Culture and Society 1780--1950 -- R. Williams
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John Ruskin and the Ethics of Consumption -- D. M. Craig
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John Ruskin: Social Reformer -- J. A. Hobson
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John Ruskin -- F. Harrison
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From Art to Politics: John Ruskin and William Morris -- L. Goldman
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William Morris: His Life, Work and Friends -- P. Henderson
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William Morris: Design and Enterprise in Victorian Britain -- C. Harvey and J. Press
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William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary -- E. P. Thompson
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Unto This Last and Other Writings -- J. Ruskin
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William Morris: Selected Writings and Designs -- W. Morris
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The Lesser Arts -- W. Morris
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English Art in the Nineteenth Century -- Julia Cartwright

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Ruskin and Morris Tutorial
1851 -- defended the Pre--Raphaelites
~ Liked their style of painting directly from nature
Architecture -- most social of the arts
~ Absence of communal activity in Victorian society
Ruskin saw 'picturesque poverty' in Venice --> developed social reform
Distinguished a class of artists in his ideal society
~ Elevated and exulted figures

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Morris -- 'he is not a socialist, at least not a practical one'
Challenged idea of the genius art figure -- prevalent since the Renaissance

~ Everyone had potential

~ The theory of genius is individualistic and capitalist
! Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings

~ Soon became political -- against businesses who wanted to to use land for
commercial purposes

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Morris -- medievalism and Icelandic sagas
~ Pre--Christian or Christianised culture of behaviours and sentiments
~ Also interested in utopia -- 'News from Nowhere'
! Invoked other periods -- alternative set of values --> critical of the 19th century
! Morris, Ruskin, Tennyson, Keats etc.

~ Take aesthetic concepts from the Middle Ages but rejected their religious
foundations
! Pugin begins this concept yet he is a Catholic -- he is aware that aesthetics and
Catholicism go together
! Gladstone in the late 1840s goes to Italy for the first time

~ Stunned by the amazing culture -- upset that it is coming from a Catholic country


~ Against ideas of Protestant superiority

~ At a time of the dissolution of the Oxford Movement -- many of his friends are

thinking of becoming Catholic

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Ruskin's mother is a strict evangelical
Over time he becomes distant from religion
Retrospectively picks Turin in 1857 as the time of his 'unconversion'
~ Contrast between paintings and church services --> stops formal worship
~ God is still important in his thinking

~ Gives us nature and beauty

~ Sees nature as harmonious -- disturbed by its competitive nature
Morris is often seen as a pioneer of modern design as well as his new socialism
~ Principles of design, fidelity to materials and ideas of honest design inspired the
next age of modernists --> modern architecture
~ Emphasis on skill and craftsmanship in the Arts and Crafts Movement

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Ruskin -- many of his ideas of the 1860s and 1870s became common sense in the 20th
century
~ Old--age pensions, unemployment and child benefits
~ Fundamental welfare benefits

~ Not merely retrospective
Defends in 1851 Millais's Christ in the House of his Parents
~ In a common workshop
~ Christ is not portrayed as a divine figure

~ Fulfilled idea of truth to nature

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1883--4 last set of Ruskin's lectures in England

~ Argues that the art of England is superior to 19th century France because
England is a moral country and art shows the country's virtues

~ French artists are painting from an immoral outlook


~ Yet French Impressionism is very important

~ Loses capacity to judge aesthetically -- subordinated to moral considerations by

the later stages of his art criticism
It is possible to read a moral history in The
Stones of Venice
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~ Baroque excesses when the republic is in decline
! Architecture is now placed historically and aesthetically

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Libel case against Whistler --> farthing compensation
~ 1878 -- Ruskin reviews a painting about the Hammersmith Pleasure Gardens

~ Firework display on a summer's night with a falling rocket
~ Ruskin is appalled at a rapidly painted, impressionistic painting

~ Part of a movement towards impressionism

~ Ruskin was not able to adapt -- becoming increasingly antiquated as a critic
Ruskin and Morris highlight the politics in aesthetics
~ Very few do this
Ruskin -- what is beauty and good design?
~ Must think about social organisation and values
Morris -- 'age of shoddy'
Caused by wrong social values
United in criticism of political economy and capitalism
~ Exploitation and industrialisation
~ Take different positions on a common problem
Far right -- hate liberalism --> paternalism
Far left -- dislike exploitation
Shared hostility to Victorian individualism
Morris -- art will remain in the hands of a few until we change society
Ruskin emphasises hierarchy
~ How will genius emerge?
~ There are many contradictions in Ruskin's ideas

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Morris never really writes about genius and inspiration
~ More on craftsmanship -- can all participate in this
~ Employed orphans from a children's home -- proved that with the right education
people can learn this capacity
W. T. Stead -- great editor of the Victorian period
~ Campaigning, investigative journalist
~ 1906 -- published a piece called 'The Labour Party and the Books that made it'

~ 17/51 surveyed mention Ruskin -- 9 mention Unto This Last particularly


~ Far more than any other author
Ruskin, despite being retrospective, affects modern developments
Morris and Anti--Scrape
~ Should leave things to decay -- not restoration
~ Extreme position
~ Tewkesbury Abbey in the 1870s -- appalled by its restoration --> begins SPAB
~ Does not like restoration in the style of the past
~ May be the first conservation society -- before the National Trust

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Carlyle, Ruskin and Morris: Cultural Criticism Class
Why was Carlyle so pessimistic about the prospects of English society in the
1840s?

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Signs of the Times -- major essays
Latter Day Pamphlets -- society has gone too far

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Church -- machine for conversion --> not spiritual
Morality -- centred on honour, popularity and money

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'Cash payment nexus' -- sole relationship between men
What is prized now is how much art affects you rather than its intrinsic beauty

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Victory over Napoleon --> Scottish starvation
Trevor--Roper -- Carlyle has a genuine sympathy for the poor
'Hero worship of Cromwell -- Carlyle is blinded to his evils
~ Also praised Abbot Samson
~ Calvinist idea of the elect
Challenges Montesquieu and Adam Smith
~ Rejects Enlightenment progress
~ Everything is viewed in its own autonomous unit

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Education is governed by institutions -- mechanical
Art -- Raphael and Michelangelo
~ Contrasts with institutions that may limit individual genius
External things such as legislation do not cause happiness

Have always been mechanisms in art e.g. patronage
Christianity -- through men's souls, not institutions
~ Yet do not want superstition etc.

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Need a balance between spiritual and mechanical
Outward is embraced and inward is abandoned

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Internal is what causes happiness
Contradictory in desire for government yet sees it as corrupt

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Is he a lone voice in an age that is generally enthusiastic about material success?
~ Ruskin is also pessimistic -- medievalism
Carlyle is keen on laborious labour -- almost Marxist non--alienation from labour
~ Both look at cash nexus society from different views
~ Disassociation from the means of production

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Carlyle favours work for work's sake
~ Is this a secularised religion?
~ Likes religious society yet not necessarily religion itself

~ Should behave as though you believe in God
Carlyle is brought to fame by translation of German poems
~ German engagement with Gurter's Faust
First critique of advertising and consumerism
Issues of society or individuals?
~ Are we capable of making the right choices in this mechanical society?

~ Link to hero worship -- people cannot make decisions

~ Better off being governed by a benign dictator
Valetism -- a great man would see through such obsequiousness
~ Equates democracy with this
~ Politicians will say what the voters will want them to say
Puts himself outside political society
~ 1851 -- Nigger question

~ Argues in favour of slavery

~ Criticises liberal arguments

~ Slaves are better off -- slavery suits them
~ Outside parameters of Victorian society -- general consensus against slavery
~ Racial and social prejudice in his thinking
~ This was the defence of slavery in the American south
Always hostile to Kant
~ Not related to reality in his morality and sentiment
~ Worse aspects of liberalism
Is he just trying to always criticise society or is he trying to really change it?
Earlier works are read much more than his later works
~ Working men read him -- cannot agree with some aspects but can still respect
other anti--capitalist elements

~ Largely ignores political prescriptions
Ruskin also put himself outside society in the 1860s -- political economy
Morris eventually becomes a socialist
~ Gladstonian liberalism will never get you anywhere
Dickens -- indictment of character in Bleak House
~ Character ignores own children yet has numerous charities
~ Idea of people missing issues in front of them -- similar to Carlyle
No spiritual impetus behind Napoleon whereas Cromwell has this
~ Revolution -- idea of cleansing
Luther was one of Carlyle's great heroes
Hero is the person who embodies the underlying spirituality of the physical time

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