Saturday, 22 January 2011

Ruskin and Peasant Writing

From their written works the influence of John Ruskin (1819-1900) can be observed on the Peasant Arts members.  Ruskin was a close friend of George MacDonald, Greville MacDonald’s father, although they did not seem to agree on anything, as Greville MacDonald relays in his memoirs (MacDonald, Reminiscences of a Specialist, 1932).
'Handicrafts of English peasants at Haslemere', The Craftsmen, August 1907; the sides of the runner read "Love makes a feast, with most or least"

Greville introduces Maude Egerton King in his Reminiscences hand in hand with Ruskin “she was born on Ruskin’s birthday, February 8, 1867, and died on St George’s Day, 1927 – one so definitely associated with his teaching and work, which she had adopted for guidance”.  He goes on to relay that Maude was “determined that she and her husband must no longer be content in passive sympathy with Ruskin and William Morris.  Her own vision must find concrete venture…from these directly came the Peasant Arts Movement.  Regnant in her heart was a conviction that Machine Power was devitalizing the people, and increasingly so; that unless the Hand’s time-honoured creative power and domestic supremacy could be restored, the consequences might well be appalling” (MacDonald, Reminiscences of a Specialist, 1932). 
'Handicrafts of English peasants at Haslemere', The Craftsmen, August 1907

Greville MacDonald was clearly a follower of Ruskin’s ‘Law of Loveliness’, that to withdraw from focusing on differences, and instead to realize the goodliness of humanity and thereby find harmony.  Greville says of Maude Egerton King, who he clearly admired deeply “almost everything she wrote or said evidenced her oneness with Ruskin’s Law of Loveliness as against the coarsening of money and machinery”. 
'Handicrafts of English peasants at Haslemere', The Craftsmen, August 1907

The Craftsmen described Godfrey Blount as “a social reformer as well as an artist and craftsmen, Mr Blount is a sincere disciple of Ruskin, and an eloquent preacher of the gospel of simplicity alike in life and in handicraft” (vol. 12, 1907).  Blount quoted Ruskin’s art teachings in Arbor Vitae (Blount, Fifield, 1910).  Blount refers to Ruskin’s Fors Clavigera in The Craftsmen saying “I only refer to it to prevent our associating the Revival of Handicrafts merely with a fashionable reaction against the machine’s invasion of the domains of art, while all the time we are consciously or unconsciously furthering that invasion of the whole domain of life.  Our instinct is beginning to rise in revolt against the great modern doctirine that use and beauty have nothing to do with one another.  Each of these is a test as well as a definition of the other.  What is really useful must also be beautiful.  What is really beautiful must be useful too.  God created it and called it good.” 'Town or country, from the rustic renaissance', The Craftsmen, March 1906.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...