Our planet, in all its contrasting power and fragility, continues to provide a ceaseless source of inspiration and wonder. This new exhibition at the Millennium Gallery takes the ideas of Victorian critic and scholar John Ruskin as a starting point to explore how artists represent the world around them. Force of Nature: Picturing Ruskin's Landscape sees paintings by JMW Turner, George Frederick Watts and the Pre-Raphaelites go on show alongside work by contemporary artists, including Julian Opie, Kathy Prendergast and George Shaw.
The depiction of the landscape in art proved an ongoing preoccupation for John Ruskin (1819-1900). While his belief that artists must reflect and record their environment was unwavering, Ruskin's view on how to best capture the âtruth' of a vista or scene was to go through a radical shift in later life. Force of Nature brings together a host of historical and contemporary work, using the evolution of Ruskin's ideas as a basis to examine how artists have adopted different approaches to portraying the landscape.
Curated by Museums Sheffield, Force of Nature comprises three sections, each taking inspiration from the developments in Ruskin's thinking; The Mountain in Miniature looks at the genesis of Ruskin's ideas, observing parallels between patterns in small geological forms and those in the broader landscape; Seeing the Landscape takes its focus from Ruskin's initial belief in realistic, visually accurate representation; finally, Sensing the Landscape looks at how Turner prompted Ruskin to revise his opinions and explores the importance of conveying our emotional response to the landscape.
Force of Nature features works largely drawn from Sheffield's own collections, complemented by a series of significant national loans from collections including those of Tate, the V&A and the Arts Council. Amongst the range of works on display are JMW Turner's Landscape with Water (1840-5), William Holman Hunt's The Sphinx, Giza, Looking Towards the Pyramids of Saqqara (1856) and Llyn-y-Cau, Cader Idris (c1774) by Richard Wilson, as well as examples of Ruskin's own topographical studies. Shown alongside them are contemporary responses to landscape, including Julian Opie's Jet stream. (2011), Carol Rhodes' Surface Mine (2009-11) and Dan Holdsworth's Andoya (2006). The exhibition also features several Sheffield-themed works exploring the city's own geography.
The exhibition is funded by the Guild of St George; founded by Ruskin in 1871, the Guild was established with broad aim of making the world a better place for humankind.
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