To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the most influential art historian of the Victorian era, the National Gallery of Art presents an exhibition “American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists”.
Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see more than 90 paintings, watercolors and drawings created by American artists, influenced by the call of Ruskin for revolutionary changes in art. The exhibition presents a number of recently opened works that have never before been put on public display.
Ryoskin’s refusal of traditional academic art and his appeal for works reflecting deep respect for both the spiritual and scientific qualities of the natural world caused sympathy in America among a group of like-minded artists, architects, scientists, critics and collectors.
The new research included in the exhibition catalog shows that members of this group, called the Association for the Promotion of Truth in Art, sought to reform not only the practice of art, but also called for changes in the political arena — most of them were abolitionists; involved in the fight against slavery. Encoded references to the Civil War are present in many delicately detailed landscape paintings, which at first glance do not appear to carry a symbolic meaning.