Ruskin at the Edinburgh Fringe


I have always had a considerable soft spot for Ruskin. My college days, brief as they were, were spent in Ruskin College Oxford, named for him because of his serious commitment to the teaching of the working classes as outlined in his monthly “letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Brittan” The college was filled with such workmen and labourers. Workwomen too. All mature students, with few or any formal qualifications, drawn predominantly from the Trade Union Movement and looking for a second chance in education.

In Edinburgh Ruskin was particularly known, notoriously known, for four lectures he delivered in 1853 on Architecture and Painting. Dr. Paul O’Keefe, an Art lecturer from Liverpool re-creates the four lectures in the National Gallery of Scotland. He dresses in the Victorian frock coat of the time. He looks remarkably like Ruskin, and he deliverers the four lectures, over four days, word for word,

They have for me been the highlight of the Festival so far. I doubt they will be surpassed. His first two lectures, on Architecture praise the gothic and attack, robustly, the Greek, in particular, but much more gently, the Athens of the North architecture of Edinburgh.

His third lecture is a hymn to the work of Thomas Mallard Turner. Hear it, or read it, and you will not look at a Turner in the same way ever again. His final lecture is a defence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, for Ruskin was the first to recognise their revolutionary contribution to the history of Art. To my delight the Pre-Raphaelite lecture is available as a download and you may listen to it here: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/podcasts/pre-raphaelitism_ruskin.aspx

The photograph is of Dr. O’Keefe as Ruskin.

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