Apr 11 2024

The new Ruskin Curators Group

April 11th 2024
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On the 22nd of January this year the Ruskin Curators group met in person for the first time. 

The informal group has recently been set up to bring together curators and academics caring for collections connected to Ruskin in the U.K.  which may expand to include international collections in future.  Current members include staff from institutions that hold collections of object, art works and archives related directly to John Ruskin; these include The Ashmolean, Brantwood, The Ruskin Lancaster, The Ruskin Museum and Sheffield Museums. The group meets every few months online to discuss projects we are undertaking, current research and future possibilities. 

This includes sharing research or helping locate research for upcoming projects, I have recently had some help considering Ruskin and Colour from the Ashmolean. The group also discusses ways in which we might work more closely in future, including on joint research and increasing loans of art works between the collections to improve public access to the art works in new locations. Most recently the groups meetings have also included discussing the most appropriate home for Ruskin related material donated to the collections. A letter from Ruskin offered to Sheffield Museums will now be cared for by Brantwood as the close communication allows us to locate the most appropriate location to house any objects offered. 

On the 22nd January 2024 we all met for the first time in person in Oxford to have a tour of the exhibition Colour Revolution; Victorian art fashion and designThe exhibition forms part of https://chromotope.eu/ an ongoing research project into colour in the Victorian period. The project is a collaboration between The Ashmolean and The University of Oxford and The Sorbonne Université Paris.  

The exhibition includes Ruskin’s watercolour, Study of a kingfisher, with dominant reference to Colour. The exhibition expands out to look at the changes in the technology of colour in this period with new dyes and paints being produced. Aswell as the social history of colours rapidly changing meaning in this period, from the craze for oriental pattern creating a rush for new blues to the risqué hidden meaning of a yellow book cover. 

We were treated to a view of the drawings collection that Ruskin built for the Ashmolean and then a curator’s tour of the Oxford University Museum of Natural history. The architecture of this wonderful building demonstrates Ruskin’s theory on architecture. 

I am currently working on the next exhibition for the Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield on colour and the trip, and the conversations and support of the group have been invaluable in my research phase.  We hope that the group is the start of many fruitful projects moving forward. 

Ashley Gallant, Curator of the Ruskin Collection, Sheffield Museums