John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was an English art critic and social thinker, also remembered as a poet and artist. His essays on art and architecture were extremely influential in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Ruskin first came to widespread attention for his support for the work of J. M. W. Turner and his defense of naturalism in art. He subsequently put his weight behind the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His later writings turned increasingly to complex and personal explorations of the interconnection of cultural, social and moral issues, and were influential on the development of Christian socialism.
For Ruskin, art should communicate truth above all things. However, he believed this was not revealed by mere display of skill, but the expression of the artist's whole moral outlook.
Ruskin's distaste for oppressive standardization led to later works attacking Laissez-faire capitalism, which influenced many trade union leaders of the Victorian era. He also was an inspiration for the Arts and Crafts Movement, the founding of the National Trust, the National Art Collections Fund, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
Ruskin emphasized what later evolved into the concept of "social economy"—networks of charitable, co-operative and other non-governmental organizations. The social economy usually develops because of a need to find new and innovative solutions to issues (whether they be socially, economically or environmentally based) and to satisfy the needs of members and users which have been ignored or inadequately fulfilled by the private or public sectors. By using solutions to achieve not-for-profit aims, it is generally believed that the social economy has a distinct and valuable role to play in helping create a strong, sustainable, prosperous and inclusive society.
"‘Unto This Last’, I translated it 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 -