Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud

12 July – 5 October 2019

The main summer show at Abbot Hall Art Gallery is Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud. The exhibition includes more than 100 works and stretches across six rooms. It is one of the biggest exhibitions in the UK during the 200th anniversary of John Ruskin’s birth (8 February 1819).

Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud is the first in-depth examination of the relationship between both men, their work, and the impact Ruskin had in highlighting climate change.

Abbot Hall is partnering with York Art Gallery and University of York on Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud. Works from both partners go on show alongside substantial loans from national and regional collections.

Ruskin (1819-1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, prominent social thinker and philanthropist.

JMW Turner (1775-1881) was a landscape painter, traveller, poet and teacher. Many people consider him the first modern painter. Ruskin said of Turner he was ‘the greatest of the age’ and was a lifelong supporter.

The exhibition features watercolours, drawings and a haunting portrait of Ruskin from the National Portrait Gallery, made in the aftermath of his first serious mental illness.

In 1884 Ruskin wrote about an encroaching “Storm Cloud” – a darkening of the skies that he attributed to the belching chimneys of the modern world. The imagery also allowed him to articulate his ongoing mental struggles.

Bringing together Victorian and contemporary works of art, the exhibition demonstrates the unsettling messages underpinning Ruskin’s eye for beauty in the natural world.

Ruskin’s anxiety about darkening skies and polluted storm clouds is contrasted with his early interest in Turner’s luminous pictures.

The exhibition contains a substantial display of Turner’s watercolours, demonstrating his evolving style, and his creation of highly-finished sample studies of British and alpine landscapes.

Lakeland Arts’ The Passage of Mount St Gothard (1804) by Turner will be a key painting on show.

Cultural organisations in Cumbria including Ruskin Museum and Brantwood in Coniston will also be marking the anniversary of Ruskin’s birth with a series of exhibitions and events in 2019, making the county the place to visit for everything Ruskin related.

The Ruskin Museum holds the most comprehensive display in the Lake District about the life and work of John Ruskin. Brantwood is Ruskin’s former home where he spent the last 28 years of his life.

Helen Watson said:

“Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud will be one of our biggest shows ever. If you have an interest in Ruskin and Turner this is a must-see exhibition. This is a hugely significant year in celebrating Ruskin and we are delighted to have this landmark exhibition at Abbot Hall during the 200th anniversary of his birth. It’s particularly apt that the exhibition takes place in Cumbria – the home of Ruskin and the place he found most inspiration.”

In showing Ruskin’s and Turner’s influence today among contemporary artists, the exhibition will also display a series of large works on paper by Emma Stibbon.

In June 2018, Royal Academician Stibbon retraced the steps of Turner and Ruskin visiting the Alps. She took the route made by Ruskin in June 1854 when he produced a series of daguerreotypes (early photographs) of Alpine scenery, to see what remains of the glaciers today.

Her work shows how geography has been impacted by climate change over the last two centuries.


Caption: JMW Turner, The Passage of Mount St Gothard, Taken from the Centre of the Teufels Broch (Devil’s Bridge), 1804 © Lakeland Arts Trust


Further information
  • Open Mon-Sat 10.30am -4/5pm; open on Sundays until 8 September
  • Admission: Adults £7.50/£8.25 with Gift Aid, Children & students FREE; Joint Gallery & Museum £9.90 (£10.90 with Gift Aid); Sundays 50% discount for visitors from the CA or LA postcode areas upon proof of address (until 8 Sep); Friends, Patrons & Benefactors FREE; National Art Pass 50% Discount
  • Location: Abbot Hall, Kirkland, Kendal LA9 5AL
  • For more information please call 015394 722464