John Ruskin was born in London in 1819 and was the son of a wealthy sherry importer. Ruskin was encouraged to take up painting and poetry from a young age. Ruskin was educated at home and at Oxford, where he was influenced by the sciences, and where he first became interested in architecture.
Ruskin married Effie Gray when he was 29, but the marriage ended after 6 years, and was never consummated. To get over the heartbreak of his loveless marriage, the artist buried himself in work, and embarked on a lengthy study of Venice, with particular attention paid to the art and architecture of the famous city. He produced a 3-volume study about Venice.
Ruskin became interested in social justice, and began to influence the shape of society through his writing.
He fell in love with Rose la Touche, who sadly died aged 29, and he carried his feelings for her for the rest of his life. After Ruskin´s father died, the social reformer became a wealthy man. He became Professor or Art at Oxford and was an increasingly radical voice in Victorian Britain.
Aged 59, Ruskin suffered his first of several breakdowns. He died in 1900 at the age of 81, leaving behind him 39 volumes of writings, thousands of drawings and watercolours and a legacy of influence which is still felt today.
Stretching from Frank Lloyd Wright to Mahatma Gandhi, Ruskin spoke up for the welfare state and was a huge influence on the founders of the National Health Service, the opening of public libraries and the National Trust. His influence also reached abroad, and he encouraged women´s education in many under-developed countries, the abolition of child labour and environmental protection.
Ruskin was also an artist who never exhibited his work professionally, but used his talent as a form of escapism and to communicate his discoveries.
Collections are permanently on display in his former home, Brantwood, and Lancaster University is home to the world´s largest archive of Ruskin material.
The former home of John Ruskin, Brantwood enjoys one of the most stunning locations in the Lake District – overlooking Coniston Water. The house has great historical importance, and is a lively centre of the arts – with over 30,000 visitors a year.
If you decide to base yourself in Windermere, which offers a wealth of attractions, plus spa hotels, boutique hotels and hot tub hotels, Coniston is just 8 miles away and is easily accessible by public transport or car.
Visitors to Brantwood are introduced to Ruskin´s world by an introductory video and can walk around seven historical rooms. Younger visitors are also well catered for with a range of activity sheets and quizzes to keep them entertained.
Brant is the Norse word for ´steep´ and the house´s steep woods were first worked by the ninth century Norse invaders. Stunning displays of wild flora and fauna attract thousands of visitors from all over the world, and the woodlands make up half of the whole 250 acre estate. High fields and lake shore scenery make up the estate, which is a Mecca for walkers of all abilities, from easy rambles to more challenging hikes to Crag Head. A vast range of trails thread through the estate and a walking guide is available from the shop.
The Moorland Garden was the site of an experiment to build terraces fashioned from the natural forms of the land and two reservoirs. It is now a garden of questions and is presented as a blank canvas.
If you want to combine your trip to the Lakes with a stay in a 5 star luxury spa hotel with hot tub suites in Windermere, take your time to choose one.