Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Desire of My Eyes

John Ruskin once said, "The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, --all in one."

John Ruskin

The book featured for discussion this month with R.E.A.D. book group will be The Desire of My Eyes: The Life and Work of John Ruskin by Wolfgang Kemp. It will be reviewed by Jane Robinson. The group will meet in the library on October 6th at 10:00 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend.

The Desire of My Eyes examines the life and work of the prolific, visionary writer, painter and critic. Kemp finds in Ruskin's life, which spanned the same years as Queen Victoria's and thus embodied the Victorian era itself, a faithful mirror of the history and psychological evolution of his age.

Examining the English critic alongside Byron, Carlyle, Karl Kraus and others of his time, and considering views of him given by Shaw and Proust, the author, a German art historian, contends that Ruskin (1819-1900) was a reflection of Victorian history and pathology. Kemp regards him as not only a major reformer, educator and ecologist, but also as a great realistic draftsman whose drawings reveal developing emotional instability. Increasingly, Ruskin's attention moved from art to society as he came to criticize capitalism, religion, technology, the destruction of nature--and himself. First sightseer, then see-er, finally seer and mythmaker, Ruskin in his old age became industry as well as institution: there were Ruskin ceramics and linens, even Ruskin cigars. This distinguished work, gracefully translated, is illustrated with portraits of the critic and drawings by him. 

Wolfgang Kemp

Wolfgang Kemp was born on May 1, 1946 in Frankfurt, Germany. He is a German art historian, author and professor of art history at the University of Hamburg. He is considered to be one of the most internationally renowned representatives of the art-historical research. He also has visiting professorships in schools which  include Harvard, UCLA, Fellow Institute for Advanced Study Berlin and Getty Research Center in Los Angeles.

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