Anita Grants holds a PhD and MA in Art History from Concordia University in Montreal and has been teaching in the Department of Art History there since 2000. Her dissertation examined the nature of the influence of John Ruskin on art, architecture and art training in Canada and developed out of her MA research, which considered the impact of some of the more radical theories of the mid and later nineteenth century on the work of Canadian painter/educator Arthur Lismer. She is a regular invited lecturer at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, topics including decorative arts, the painting of Edouard Vuillard and artistic life in early twentieth-century Paris, art at the time of Catherine the Great, Pop Art, and the influence of English painting on the films of Alfred Hitchcock. In other public talks, subjects have included the Mona Lisa as pop icon, Ruskinian moralism, the Sistine Chapel, portraiture, and Montreal’s commercial architecture. Since 2011 her comments on art and society have been featured in the radio program “Up Front” on Preston FM (England). She is a member of the Editorial Board of the referred journal The Eighth Lamp: Ruskin Studies Today.
Synopsis – The Influence of John Ruskin in Ontario
John Ruskin was one of the most influential thinkers of the Victorian era. A gentleman-scholar whose first articles were published before he was twenty, he wrote extensively on art, architecture, education and society, with his collected works totalling 39-volumes. His ideas were far-reaching and his many proponents ensured that the gospel of Ruskin was spread across the English-speaking world. Canada was not exempt from this sphere of influence, even though there were no obvious associations with the man, as was the case in England and in the United States. One of the most interesting aspects of the Canadian example was the attitude of Ruskin’s admirers here, most of whom felt little compunction at liberally re-interpreting his theories and directions as well as those of his English followers. There was a selectivity which was used to validate points of view and in so doing also provide links to England. As such, much of what was attributed to Ruskin in Canada, whether in the design of a building or the advocacy of a new form of art education in schools, was mixed with and adapted to the theories of his adherents. While many examples of this type of influence can be found across all regions of Canada, the focus of this talk will be Ontario. An overview of the nature of Ruskin’s influence and a brief breakdown of relevant texts will be followed by a discussion of the places and people who applied and invoked Ruskin.