ABSTRACT

This essay describes the points of intersection between two figures who have equal right to be described as Great Victorians who shaped the conditions of aesthetic production, yet whose individual personalities, attitudes and ambitions are so diametrically opposed as to represent the longitude and latitude of Victorian cultural values: John Ruskin and Henry Cole. While Ruskin was almost an exact contemporary of Queen Victoria, born the same year and dying just one year ahead of her, Cole was born in 1807 and died in 1882. This calendrical discrepancy is somewhat adjusted, however, by Ruskin’s withdrawal into silence after 1889, and the fact that both came into prominence in the early 1840s, at a time of social and economic distress, when industrialization and the expansion of British cities raised important issues of morality and aesthetics for architecture and design. Their intertwined legacies reveal the issues that emerged in the developing conditions of industrial production in the nineteenth century.