Nature’s put in the frame for art exhibition

Painting: John Brett, Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily, 'circa 1870.                                         Picture: � Museums Sheffield
Painting: John Brett, Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily, 'circa 1870. Picture: � Museums Sheffield
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AN EXHIBITION about how artists respond to the world around them and featuring some spectacular works of art has opened at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield.

Force of Nature: Picturing Ruskin’s Landscape takes the ideas of Victorian critic and scholar John Ruskin as a starting point to explore how artists represent the world around them.

Paintings by JMW Turner, George Frederick Watts and the Pre-Raphaelites are on show alongside work by contemporary artists, including Julian Opie, Kathy Prendergast and George Shaw.

Ruskin, who set up the original Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield as an educational resource for working people, had a lifelong preoccupation with landscape. He believed that artists must reflect and record their environment but his views on how to best capture the ‘truth’ of a scene went through a radical shift in his later life.

Force of Nature uses the changes in Ruskin’s ideas as a basis to examine how artists have adopted different approaches to portraying the landscape.

Curated by Museums Sheffield, Force of Nature comprises three sections, each taking inspiration from the developments in Ruskin’s thinking.

The Mountain in Miniature looks at how Ruskin was fascinated by parallels between patterns found in small geological forms and those in the broader landscape.

Seeing the Landscape explores at Ruskin’s initial belief in realistic, visually accurate representation and Sensing the Landscape looks at how Turner’s work prompted Ruskin to revise his opinions. It explores the importance of conveying our emotional response to the landscape.

Force of Nature will feature works largely drawn from Sheffield collections, plus some loans from collections including those of Tate, the V&A and the Arts Council.

Among the works on display will be JMW Turner’s Landscape with Water (1840-5), William Holman Hunt’s The Sphinx, Giza, Looking Towards the Pyramids of Saqqara (1856) and Llyn-y-Cau, Cader Idris (c1774) by Richard Wilson, as well as examples of Ruskin’s own topographical studies.

Shown alongside them will be contemporary works including Julian Opie’s Jet stream. (2011), Carol Rhodes’ Surface Mine (2009-11) and Dan Holdsworth’s Andoya (2006).

The exhibition will also feature several Sheffield-themed works exploring the city’s own geography.

Force of Nature: Picturing Ruskin’s Landscape is open until June 23 next year and entry is free.

The exhibition is funded by the Guild of St George, which was founded by Ruskin in 1871 with the broad aim of making the world a better place for everyone.