Sep 19 2023

A tribute to Companion Andrew Russell

September 19th 2023

Companion Paul Dawson pays tribute to his friend and fellow Ruskinian, Andrew Russell.

Andrew russell portrait.jpg

ANDREW RUSSELL 1957 - 2023

It is my sad task to let you know that we have lost another fine scholar and distinguished Ruskin Colleague. Andrew Russell left us on 26 July following a short illness. 

Andrew was a member of the Ruskin Society, a companion of the Guild of St George, and a Friend of Ruskin’s Brantwood. He was born and spent his early years in Sheffield and often recalled childhood days walking with his father to Totley Farm on St George’s land and becoming familiar with the Ruskin name. He left Sheffield to read History at Lancaster University before a career in curatorial and library roles, becoming curator of special collections with the National Art Library at the V&A in London where he stayed for fourteen years. Among our number will be several who will have experienced Andrew’s thoughtful assistance in that role when making research visits to the National Art Library during his time there. The Guild of St George will remember him with gratitude for overseeing the cataloguing and movement of their library from the Norfolk Street premises to the Millennium Gallery site when seconded from the V&A over the winter of 2000/2001. The Friends of Brantwood will recall his writings on Ruskin and Sheffield and of the friendship of Ruskin with Prince Leopold. Andrew never lost his love for Sheffield or his interest in Ruskin and was constantly researching and deepening his knowledge of both, always making notes, and looking forward to fulfilling his writing plans and research projects.

Andrew also became involved with diversity and mobility training while at the V&A, giving lectures and addressing various committees on a subject that was clearly important to him. When diagnosed with dystonia, a rather less known neurological movement disorder, he typically researched it fully and joined the Dystonia Society to see how he could better understand the condition and how he could help others deal with it. He had become a trustee of the Society and was active in conferences both at home and in Europe and was the editor of the London SW and Surrey Dystonia Group Newsletter. His broadcast interview ‘Living With Dystonia’ discussed the issues of dealing with the condition and is currently available at Living With Dystonia w/ Andrew Russell - Accessibility & Me | Podcast on Spotify  (scroll down to October 2020).

After being librarian at the Society of Analytical Psychology (SAP) in Swiss Cottage for some years, he took a new part time post at British Psychotherapy Foundation (BPF). Following the merger of the two organisations under the BPF name he reorganized the library supporting all the different courses ably and efficiently. When the new BPF is relocated and refitted, it will be named the Russell Library after him.

I first met Andrew in 1999 when, while fairly new in his post at the National Art Library, he was handed the task of curating an exhibition for the ‘Ruskin Today’ series of events that was to commemorate the centenary year of Ruskin’s death. ‘Ruskin and the Book’ was the prescribed title of the exhibition, and I received a letter from Andrew who had seen a copy of my bibliography of Allen’s editions of Ruskin, asking if he could talk to me about the publishing of Ruskin’s works. That led to a meeting, a visit to my home and archive, and to almost twenty-five years of a most valued friendship. A couple of times a year he would come down to Sussex for a weekend and had a particular love for Hastings, its history, the ‘Old Town’, and its bookshops. We talked late into each evening of Ruskin and of books and writing. He had so many plans for his retirement, and I had expected many more years of his delightful visits.

Along with his family and partner Brianna, I will miss him greatly and always remember his spirit of positivity, his remarkable work ethic, and the support and encouragement he gave to my own projects.

Paul Dawson