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Ruskin, John, 1819–1900

John Ruskin letters to Thomas Goff Lupton, 1845-1873.

Physical Description:
0.42 linear feet (1 box)
Rare Books and Manuscripts
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
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John Ruskin (1819-1900) was one the most prominent English art critics of the 19th century, as well as an artist, collector, social critic, and poet. His enthusiasm for the work of J.M.W. Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites had a significant impact on contemporary views of painting and architecture. The engraver Thomas Goff Lupton (1791-1873) collaborated with Ruskin on a number of published works, including Modern painters (1843-1860), The stones of Venice (1851-1853), and The harbours of England (1856).
The collection comprises 65 letters sent by John Ruskin to Thomas Goff Lupton from 1850 to 1873, with much of the correspondence concerning Lupton's engravings for Ruskin's Modern painters and The harbours of England. It also includes one letter to Lupton from Benjamin Haydon, sent in 1845. The scope of Ruskin's letters includes the professional and the personal. Ruskin appears to have been in close communication with Lupton about the engraving and printing of images for his books during the 1850s. In particular, the two men's connection to J.M.W. Turner, who had died in 1851, prompted their collaboration on works that sought to bring Turner's landscapes and other art into print. Ruskin's letters to Lupton reveal a very close working relationship, with both men working on plates at different stages, and sending plates and proofs back and forth to one another. Ruskin is anxious for perfection throughout, and frequently chides Lupton for delays or for departures from his instructions, despite the engraver's experience and well-established reputation at this time. Many of the letters relate specific directions about the handling of plates, and seem to have originally accompanied the plates themselves, carried to Lupton by one of Ruskin's servants. Ruskin's letters often express frustration with the other engravers involved in his projects, and he bemoans his difficult interactions with them to Lupton.
While the bulk of the correspondence dates from the 1850s, the years in which Ruskin and Lupton were most actively working together, it carries on throughout the 1860s and 1870s, until Lupton's death in 1873. Although Ruskin can be harsh, demanding, and impatient with Lupton in his professional correspondence, he seems able to offer genuinely friendly concern and communication at other times. For instance, Ruskin offers Lupton a moving letter of sympathy upon the death of the engraver's wife, Susannah, in 1864. Another letter of condolence, written to Lupton's son after Lupton died in 1873, expresses the deep respect and affection that Ruskin held for his collaborator and friend. When Ruskin is in poor health (he suffered mental and physical illness especially during the 1860s and 1870s), he is relatively honest about his condition, informing Lupton of the reasons for gaps in his correspondence when he chooses to retire from work and communication in order to rest from time to time. In addition to the correspondence with Thomas Goff Lupton, Ruskin writes a couple of letters to Lupton's son Nevil, who seems to have assisted his father both in the physical labor of his engravings and in the management of his business. Ruskin is respectful and kind in his messages to Nevil, and acknowledges his contributions.
The collection is arranged into two series: I. Dated letters. II. Undated letters. The second series contains letters whose date could not be approximated to closer than one or two years. The single letter to Lupton from Benjamin Robert Haydon is the first item in series one.
Subject Terms:
Artists -- Great Britain -- Correspondence.
Boys, Thomas Shotter, 1803-1874.
Engravers -- Great Britain -- Correspondence.
Engraving -- 19th century -- Great Britain.
Etchers -- Great Britain -- Correspondence.
Etching -- 19th century -- Great Britain.
Gambart, Ernest, 1814-1902.
Haydon, Benjamin Robert, 1786-1846 -- Correspondence.
Illustration of books -- 19th century -- Great Britain.
Lupton, Nevil Oliver, ca. 1830-1915 -- Correspondence.
Lupton, Thomas Goff, 1791-1873 -- Correspondence.
Lupton, Thomas, 1821-1910 -- Correspondence.
Mezzotint engraving -- 19th century -- Great Britain.
Ruskin, John, 1819-1900 -- Correspondence.
Ruskin, John, 1819-1900 -- Friends and associates.
Ruskin, John, 1819-1900. Harbours of England.
Ruskin, John, 1819-1900. Modern painters.
Turner, J. M. W. (Joseph Mallord William), 1775-1851.
Haydon, Benjamin Robert, 1786-1846.

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