Samuel Prout (1783-1852) was a one of Ruskin’s early drawing masters and probably the most influential on the development of his ability to render architecture and human habitation in town and country when travelling. Prout became a friend and neighbour of Ruskin’s parents in south London shortly after he moved from Plymouth in 1803. In 1819 he undertook a continental tour and from this point onwards his career took off. 1829 he was appointed Painter in Water-Colours in Ordinary to King George IV.
Ruskin purchased a number of Prout’s watercolours and drawings and wrote in high praise of his style. Ruskin’s early drawings in the style of Prout are hard to tell apart from his teacher, except that Prout had a keen eye for people, something which Ruskin never developed in the same degree. Ruskin particularly admired Prout’s ability to depict the texture and patina of aging masonry and wood, giving his studies of vernacular architecture a quality of authenticity and honesty that Ruskin felt was lacking in the self-conscious style of the Picturesque.
Ruskin outgrew Prout stylistically and technically but even in later drawings Prout’s influence can be seen. For Ruskin, who travelled widely in Britain and Europe, being able to capture the details of landscapes, townscapes and architecture at speed was an invaluable training for the eye and a major asset in producing the visual record that accompanied his lectures and writings.