John Ruskin Letters to William Cassels, 1881-1884

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was the leading art critic of the Victorian period, publishing over 250 works on art and literary criticism, politics and social reform. He was particularly influential to the young Pre-Raphaelites, whom he championed in the face of negative critical review. Later in life his writings became more focused on social and political issues. He advocated for the importance of art and beauty in the working-class life, equating beauty with morality.

William Cassels (1843-1929) was born in Glasgow, Scotland. A mechanical engineer by profession, he was a landscape watercolor painter by avocation. He was an early member of the Glasgow Ruskin Society, founded in the 1880s. As an artist, William Cassels followed Ruskin’s exhortation to observe and paint nature in all its glorious detail. His landscapes are articulated in meticulous detail, the result of close observation.

This collection contains five letters from John Ruskin to William Cassels, written between 1881 and 1884, and a carte de visite of Ruskin. The letters suggest Cassels’ disaffection with Victorian industrialism, despite its being the source of his livelihood.