Mar 18 2013
Museums Sheffield’s Ruskin Curator, Louise Pullen on the latest redisplay of the Ruskin Collection at the Millennium Gallery.
With the Millennium Gallery’s major Ruskin-inspired exhibition Force of Nature halfway through its run, I’ve been working on a new display for the Ruskin Collection which we’ve just opened. As ever, it’s been drawn from the eclectic collections of the Guild of St George, and shows a mixture of art, architectural design and natural history.
The first of the sections is called ‘Curl and Curve’ and it celebrates Ruskin’s view that ‘curvature is essential to all beauty’ – a statement perhaps that many women would endorse, but in this context relates more to the curvaceous form of nature and its relationship to architecture. Another section, ‘Lost Worlds and Hidden Corners’ follows Ruskin’s feeling that we all need to slow down a bit in our busy lives to celebrate and protect the beauty that is all around us. Finally the section ‘Great Outdoors’ complements Force of Nature, but really follows Ruskin’s advice to take a closer look at nature. I put this section together in the icy weather last month, and I think because of this it’s full of blue skies and beautiful plant life to hearten us through the current gloomy days and celebrate spring when it finally arrives.
One of the works going on display is a heavily illustrated book by a heroine of mine, Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717). After spending part of her life illustrating books of natural history for various male scientists back at home in Germany, she decided to get divorced and take herself (and her daughter) off exploring instead. She started to write and illustrate her own books, making a name for herself as an explorer and scientist - an amazing achievement for a woman at the very beginning of the 1700s. The book I’m displaying is a study of insects she produced from her scientific voyage to Suriname, just north of Brazil. It contains images of all sorts of weird and wonderful insects, plants and reptiles and I have visions of this rather well-built lady in all her petticoats striding through jungle, machete in one hand and sketchbook in the other.
Ruskin’s minerals are always popular so I’ve filled a case full of them to shine and twinkle alongside the more traditional watercolours and drawings. I hope that the selection continues to fulfil Ruskin’s hopes that it should inspire visitors to creativity and enjoyment.
The new Ruskin Collection displays at the Millennium Gallery are open now
Top - John Wharton Bunney, Sketchbook and Flower Studies, 1861-2. Collection of the Guild of St George / photo © Musuems Sheffield.
Bottom - Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosibus Insectorum Surinamensium (Transformations of the Insects of Surinam), published 1726. Collection of the Guild of St George / photo © Musuems Sheffield.