All Great Art Is Praise: Art and Religion in John Ruskin

All Great Art Is Praise: Art and Religion in John Ruskin

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After a long period of comparative neglect, starting almost immediately upon his death in 1900, John Ruskin began to attract, from the 1960s onwards, a remarkable degree of critical interest. Although the formidably ample Library Edition of Ruskin's works will always constitute the primary basis for interpretation, there is also newly available source material, in the form of letters and (in part) diaries, as well as a scintillating body of modern comment to which the present study seeks to contribute.

Ruskin had an extraordinary ability to bring together aesthetics, religion, ecology, and social issues in a unitary, overarching vision, all expressed in a prose style worthy of comparison with any in the English language. All Great Art is Praise focuses especially on the themes of art and religion, for Aidan Nichols takes the view that Ruskin's writings on art cannot be appreciated without taking into account at many points his approach to religion. This volume offers an analytic account of Ruskin's principal writings on art, viewed through the lens of Ruskin's religious claims.

For readers new to Ruskin, an opening chapter provides an overview of his work in the context of a life that combined public celebrity with private sorrow. Succeeding chapters consider his comments on art and religion in broadly chronological order, ending with the highly innovative open letters to working men, and his moving autobiography which was left unfinished at the time of his descent into madness and death.

Ruskin's evaluations of (among others) Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites, the Italian Primitives, and the artists of the high Renaissance, gave the Victorians eyes to see. But his writings call for comment not only from literary scholars and art historians but also from students of ideas since they address a wide range of issues in both theology and philosophy.

The volume looks especially closely at Ruskin's changing attitudes to Catholicism. The son of a stoutly Bible-Protestant mother and a father politically opposed to the civil emancipation of Catholics, Ruskin found it increasingly difficult to combine his inherited anti-Catholicism with his appreciation of Byzantine-Venetian, Renaissance-humanist, and Franciscan-evangelical art and the program for living these contained or implied. The rumors in late life of his immanent conversion to Rome proved unfounded, but they were not implausible. All Great Art is Praise seeks to show why.
Catholic Univ of Amer Pr
Publication Date:
September 30, 2016