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Treat in store for Scotland’s art lovers

Cabinet Secretary tours John Ruskin exhibition in Ottawa, prior to its Scottish run

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Commonwealth Games, got a sneak preview of a major new exhibition coming to Scotland while in Canada.

Aficionados of drawings and watercolours will not want to miss the forthcoming John Ruskin exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

That was the Cabinet Secretary’s verdict, as she toured it this week in its current setting at the National Gallery of Canada.

Ms Robison was in Ottawa as part of her official Canadian visit, which coincides with the Queen's Baton Relay being in the country.

From July 4 to September 8, the collection of 140 drawings, watercolours and early photographs on varied subject matter, from architecture and landscape to nature studies, will be on display in Edinburgh, thanks to a prestigious collaboration between NGS and NGC.

A famous aesthete from a Scottish family, Ruskin (1819-1900) was best known as the nineteenth century's greatest British art critic, and champion of Turner.

His own little-known, yet outstanding works, are brought to the fore in John Ruskin: Artist and Observer, which unites loans from key collections in Canada, the USA and Great Britain (both public and private). It is the first time some have been shown in public.

Co-curated by NGC and NGS the display at the Queen Street gallery will be the exhibition's only showing outside Canada, as well as being the largest exhibition ever to focus on Ruskin’s work as an artist.

Highlights include wild and spectacular Scottish and Alpine landscapes, Gothic palaces in Venice plus birds, geological structures, and plants painstakingly depicted and brilliantly coloured.

Ms Robison said: "Ruskin visited Scotland a great deal and was passionate about our beautiful landscapes and literary heritage.

"It is befitting an artist of his enormous talent that the spotlight is shone firmly on him both at home and abroad.

"I applaud the National Gallery of Canada and the National Galleries of Scotland for this beautiful and striking exhibition, and which ensures that Ruskin's legacy lives on by introducing his works to new audiences."

Director of NGC, Marc Mayer gave Ms Robison a private tour of the exhibition. He said: “John Ruskin: Artist and Observer garnered rave reviews from the Canadian media and was very well received by the public.

“Our collaboration with the Scottish National Portrait Gallery – our first – has been both fruitful and very enjoyable. We look forward to more.”

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said: “Ruskin was one of the great thinkers of the nineteenth century, and the leading art critic of his day, but his remarkable skill as a draughtsman and watercolour painter are largely unknown.

“This fascinating and ambitious exhibition will explore a private but hugely revealing aspect of Ruskin’s creative life, and will be one of the highlights of our programme this year.”


A major, scholarly catalogue complementing the exhibition is to be published by the National Gallery of Canada.

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