JOHN RUSKIN, THE STONES OF VENICE - AT THE DOGE'S PALACE

March 4th, 2018
10 March- 10 June 2018 – at the Doge’s Palace, Venice

For the first time in Italy an important exhibition dedicated to John Ruskin (1819 –1900), the great Victorian artist and leading cultural critic of his times. He visited Venice for the first time in 1835 with his parents, then he came back over and over until old age. We count eleven visits, during which his relationship with Venice – it was, indeed, love at first sight – became a deep, intricate passion that enormously influenced his life.

Ruskin states that Venice had taught him everything he ever knew about art and architecture, and that he considered himself ‘a foster child of Venice’. Gothic Venice represented for him the ideal civic society, where art, religion and government were in perfect harmony. While Renaissance and Baroque Venice were already facing moral and artistic decline.

His study of the city went on stone by stone, fragment by fragment. “We cannot remember without architecture” he states. No one before him had tried to investigate and interpret an architectural period through detailed personal observation.  Ruskin thought that the example of Gothic Venice had something to teach to contemporary British society.

The exhibition, curated by Anna Ottani Cavina, will occupy the Loggia of the Doge’s Palace, that Ruskin studied in-depth and defined ‘the central building of the world’. The scenic array conceived by Pier Luigi Pizzi emphasizes Byzantine and Gothic sculpture and architecture, that Ruskin considered the most genuine Venetian contribution to the world.

The focus is on John Ruskin as an artist, with almost a hundred paintings, pen drawings and exceptional watercolors. Besides depicting the city and its architectures, the artist was also fascinated by some of the Venetian painters, Carpaccio and Tintoretto in particular.

Ruskin admired the very modern work of William Turner, another artist stricken by the elusive beauty of Venice, which will be present with two paintings: ‘The Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute’, from the Washington National Gallery of Art and ‘Venice, the Ceremony of the Doge Marrying the Sea’ from Tate Britain, London.

To complete the journey, a selection of his Venetian Notebooks, the original manuscripts for The Stones of Venice in the form of blue paper fragments from the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, and some of his recently rediscovered daguerreotypes.

Ruskin saw Venice in the period that goes from 1835 to 1888, and thought the city’s art treasures were so neglected, even by her own citizens, that he feared it would melt into the Lagoon ‘as a lump of sugar in hot tea’.

He was scared by the arrival of trains into Venice, he hated the new pink Murano glass gas lamps. We wonder what he would say of the Venice of the 21st century, with its giant cruise ships, the airport, and millions and millions of tourists. The exhibition centers both on this great artist and his love for the ‘stones of Venice’ but also wants to be a tribute to the safeguard of Venice from overexposure to careless tourism.

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