Ruskin on Venice

By Robert Hewison and published by Yale University Press, £45

Viewed from 160 years later it is not always easy to take Ruskin seriously: his romanticisation of the Gothic and demonisation of the Renaissance verges on the absurd, while curious relationships first with his beautiful and lively young wife – with whom he honeymooned in Venice and who divorced him shortly thereafter – and in later life with an adolescent girl who died young, are difficult to explain.

Neverthess Ruskin writes beautifully, his scholarship is superb, and his vision of mediaeval Europe as a pre-industrial, artisanal, feudal Utopia, while certainly wrong, is not without attraction.

This latest book linking the two perennially absorbing, and closely related, subjects of Ruskin and Venice is well reviewed in Apollo Magazine by Christopher Newall:

Ruskin on Venice offers much more than a series of glimpses of its subject at different stages of his life: by linking Ruskin’s various stays in Venice together into a larger evolution of thought, it provides an unfolding drama of his myriad preoccupations and ever-fluctuating state of mind.”

Ruskin inevitably crops up in all the Blue Gudies’ Venice books: both he and his wife Effie are anthologised in Literary Companion Venice, and of course his presence is also recorded in the recent Blue Guide Travel Monograph on the Venice Lido.

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