© 2017-201 The RSA Japan Fellows' Network

Ruskin Calling: RSA JFN Event September 27th 2018 | Divya Marie Kato FRSA

November 23, 2018

“Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.”  – John Ruskin

A key area of the RSA’s work is education and working towards “… an education of the head, hand and heart…”.  But what does this mean in 2018?  And, could the ideas of a man born 200 years ago give us some clues?


As its contribution to the RSA’s Creative Learning & Development, RSA Japan Fellows’ Network ran:

Ruskin Calling:  Educating Hands, Heads & Hearts In The Age Of AI

Approaching The 200th Anniversary Of John Ruskin’s Birth:
Artist and educator, Divya Marie Kato FRSA, presented his messages for a society in change, in an event with a twist:


Rather than a lecture style presentation, we experimented by putting Ruskin’s ideas into practice.

Divya also highlighted Ruskin’s influence in Japan, which was brought to her attention via another RSA fellow, artist and Ruskin expert, Hilary Baker.  Hilary will be coming to Japan in 2019 to organise events celebrating Ruskin’s bicentenary.  


Divya and Hilary have been collaborating on exciting things – read on to find out!


Fun Fact:  Due to the work of Ryuzo Mikimoto and efforts of The Ruskin Library Tokyo, Japan holds the largest collection of Ruskin’s work outside of the U.K. (links listed below).



Event Recap On The RSA Website Here



Why Ruskin Calling?
Divya’s husband, Masa, was inspired to name this event after The Clash song, London Calling, because he felt that Ruskin really has been calling us!  (also a great tune to kick off the evening!  


 Ruskin Calling: RSA JFN Event

Ruskin:  Largely Forgotten?

Ruskin was undoubtedly the most influential critic of the Victorian era.  Born in 1819, his work, spanning art criticism, politics and society, inspired such notable figures as Gandhi, Proust and Tolstoy.


“I translated it (Unto This Last) later into Gujarati entitling it ‘Sarvodaya’ (the welfare of all). I believe that I discovered some of my deepest convictions reflected in this great book of Ruskin and that is why it so captured me and made me transform my life.”  — Mahatma Gandhi


It’s hard to imagine how such popularity has waned over the years, however there are organisations striving to keep his ideas alive and academics and individuals alike who continue to be captured by and drawn to his work.

Portrait Of Ruskin, Drawn From A Statue In The Ruskin Library Tokyo, Divya Marie Kato FRSA, Ink Pen On Paper

“There is no wealth but life.”  – Ruskin

Ruskin’s legacy lives on in The Guild of St. George and The Ruskin School of Drawing, both of which he founded, and also in the substantial body of work he left behind, including the five volumes of Modern Painters, The Elements of Drawing and The Stones of Venice, of which Volume 2 included the chapter, The Nature of Gothic.


It was this chapter which famously inspired William Morris, who described it as: “one of the very few necessary and inevitable utterances of the century” and published it separately.


In the following passages, you’ll see how Ruskin, ever the social reformer, strove to share the wider implications he observed in details:

“We want one man to be always thinking, and another to be always working, and we call one a gentleman, and the other an operative whereas the workman ought often to be thinking, and the thinker often to be working, and both should be gentlemen, in the best sense.


As it is, we make both ungentle, the one envying, the other despising, his brother; and the mass of society is made up of morbid thinkers and miserable workers.


Now it is only by labour that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labour can be made happy, and the two cannot be separated with impunity.” 


– Ruskin, The Stones of Venice


“My dear Reader,—Whether this book is to be of use to you or not, depends wholly on your reason for wishing to learn to draw.  


If you desire only to possess a graceful accomplishment, to be able to converse in a fluent manner about drawing, or to amuse yourself listlessly in listless hours, I cannot help you:


but if you wish to learn drawing that you may be able to set down clearly, and usefully, records of such things as cannot be described in words, either to assist your own memory of them, or to convey distinct ideas of them to other people;


if you wish to obtain quicker perceptions of the beauty of the natural world, and to preserve something like a true image of beautiful things that pass away, or which you must yourself leave;


if, also, you wish to understand the minds of great painters, and to be able to appreciate their work sincerely, seeing it for yourself, and loving it, not merely taking up the thoughts of other people about it; then I can help you, or, which is better, show you how to help yourself.”  


-Ruskin, The Elements of Drawing

Putting Ruskin’s Ideas Into Practice With Charcoal From Ruskin Land