Quotes by John Ruskin

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John Ruskin (February 8, 1819 January 20, 1900) was an English author, poet and artist, although more famous for his work as art critic and social critic. Ruskin's thinking on art and architecture became the thinking of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. more

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Of all the things that oppress me, this sense of the evil working of nature herself --my disgust at her barbarity --clumsiness --darkness --bitter mockery of herself --is the most desolating.

The sky is the part of creation in which nature has done for the sake of pleasing man.
In old times men used their powers of painting to show the objects of faith, in later times they use the objects of faith to show their powers of painting.
No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art.
No good is ever done to society by the pictorial representation of its diseases.
The last act crowns the play.
Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.
Punishment is the last and the least effective instrument in the hands of the legislator for the prevention of crime.
It is his restraint that is honorable to a person, not their liberty.
Nothing is ever done beautifully which is done in rivalship: or nobly, which is done in pride.
The work of science is to substitute facts for appearances, and demonstrations for impressions.
Let every dawn of the morning be to you as the beginning of life. And let every setting of the sun be to you as its close. Then let everyone of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others; some good strength of knowledge gained for yourself.
It is far more difficult to be simple than to be complicated; far more difficult to sacrifice skill and easy execution in the proper place, than to expand both indiscriminately.
Nearly all the powerful people of this age are unbelievers, the best of them in doubt and misery, the most in plodding hesitation, doing as well as they can, what practical work lies at hand.
Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect and passion in their operation.
The distinguishing sign of slavery is to have a price, and to be bought for it.
Some slaves are scoured to their work by whips, others by their restlessness and ambition.
It does not matter what the whip is; it is none the less a whip, because you have cut thongs for it out of your own souls.
Success by the laws of competition signifies a victory over others by obtaining the direction and profits of their work. This is the real source of all great riches.
No one can become rich by the efforts of only their toil, but only by the discovery of some method of taxing the labor of others.
No lying knight or lying priest ever prospered in any age, but especially not in the dark ones. Men prospered then only in following an openly declared purpose, and preaching candidly beloved and trusted creeds.
How false is the conception, how frantic the pursuit, of that treacherous phantom which men call Liberty: most treacherous, indeed, of all phantoms; for the feeblest ray of reason might surely show us, that not only its attainment, but its being, was impossible. There is no such thing in the universe. There can never be. The stars have it not; the earth has it not; the sea has it not; and we men have the mockery and semblance of it only for our heaviest punishment.
It takes a great deal of living to get a little deal of learning.
It is not, truly speaking, the labor that is divided; but the men: divided into mere segments of men --broken into small fragments and crumbs of life, so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail.
Once thoroughly our own knowledge ceases to give us pleasure.
An infinitude of tenderness is the chief gift and inheritance of all truly great men.
The great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than the furnace blast, is all in very deed for this -- that we manufacture everything there except men.
An unimaginative person can neither be reverent or kind.
It is eminently a weariable faculty, eminently delicate, and incapable of bearing fatigue; so that if we give it too many objects at a time to employ itself upon, or very grand ones for a long time together, it fails under the effort, becomes jaded, exactly as the limbs do by bodily fatigue, and incapable of answering any farther appeal till it has had rest.
If men lived like men indeed, their houses would be temples -- temples which we should hardly dare to injure, and in which it would make us holy to be permitted to live; and there must be a strange dissolution of natural affection, a strange unthankfulness for all that homes have given and parents taught, a strange consciousness that we have been unfaithful to our fathers honor, or that our own lives are not such as would make our dwellings sacred to our children, when each man would fain build to himself, and build for the little revolution of his own life only.
It is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture. That which I have... insisted upon as the life of the whole, that spirit which is given only by the hand and eye of the workman, can never be recalled.
Life without industry is guilt. Industry without Art is Brutality.
It is far better to give work that is above a person, than to educate the person to be above their work.
You cannot get anything out of nature or from God by gambling; only out of your neighbor.
Men are more evanescent than pictures, yet one sorrows for lost friends, and pictures are my friends. I have none others. I am never long enough with men to attach myself to them; and whatever feelings of attachment I have are to material things.
Freedom is only granted us that obedience may be more perfect.
Large fortunes are all founded either on the occupation of land, or lending or the taxation of labor.
Modern education has devoted itself to the teaching of impudence, and then we complain that we can no longer control our mobs.
Men cannot not live by exchanging articles, but producing them. They live by work not trade.
Cursing is invoking the assistance of a spirit to help you inflict suffering. Swearing on the other hand, is invoking, only the witness of a spirit to an statement you wish to make.
We have seen when the earth had to be prepared for the habitation of man, a veil, as it were, of intermediate being was spread between him and its darkness, in which were joined in a subdued measure, the stability and insensibility of the earth, and the passion and perishing of mankind.
Of all God's gifts to the sighted man, color is holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.
The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.
Civilization is the making of civil persons.
I look upon those pitiful concretions of lime and clay which spring up, in mildewed forwardness, out of the kneaded fields about our capital... not merely with the careless disgust of an offended eye, not merely with sorrow for a desecrated landscape, but with a painful foreboding that the roots of our national greatness must be deeply cankered when they are thus loosely struck in their native ground. The crowded tenements of a struggling and restless population differ only from the tents of the Arab or the Gipsy by their less healthy openness to the air of heaven, and less happy choice of their spot of earth; by their sacrifice of liberty without the gain of rest, and of stability without the luxury of change.
Nearly all the evils in the Church have arisen from bishops desiring power more than light. They want authority, not outlook.
In great countries, children are always trying to remain children, and the parents want to make them into adults. In vile countries, the children are always wanting to be adults and the parents want to keep them children.
To watch the corn grow, or the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over the plough or spade; to read, to think, to love, to pray, are the things that make men happy.
They are the weakest-minded and the hardest-hearted men that most love change.
One of the prevailing sources of misery and crime is in the generally accepted assumption, that because things have been wrong a long time, it is impossible they will ever be right.
To use books rightly, is to go to them for help; to appeal to them when our own knowledge and power fail; to be led by them into wider sight and purer conception than our own, and to receive from them the united sentence of the judges and councils of all time, against our solitary and unstable opinions.
How long most people would look at the best book before they would give the price of a large turbot for it?
Be sure that you go to the author to get at his meaning, not to find yours.
No art can be noble which is incapable of expressing thought, and no art is capable of expressing thought which does not change.
I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face.
What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.
When we build, let us think that we build for ever.
No architecture is so haughty as that which is simple.
We may live without her, and worship without her, but we cannot remember without her. How cold is all history, how lifeless all imagery, compared to that which the living nation writes, and the uncorrupted marble bears!
An architect should live as little in cities as a painter. Send him to our hills, and let him study there what nature understands by a buttress, and what by a dome.

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