John Ruskin

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Gutzon Borglum
height: 14 3/4 inches (375 mm); base: 11 11/16 x 8 7/8 inches (297 x 181 mm)
Gift of Antoinette Howell in memory of her husband, Warren Richardson Howell.
Signed on base, behind seated figure, "Gutzon Borglum".
Mr. and Mrs. Warren Richardson Howell.

Although renowned for his imposing sculpture of American presidents at Rushmore National Memorial (1927-1941), Gutzon Borglum also created intimate small-scale sculptures like this bronze of the aging John Ruskin (1819-1900). Borglum met Ruskin, the famed English art critic, around 1897 while the artist was in working in London. At this time Ruskin's belief in the moral and social purpose of art had begun to be viewed as outdated among the modernists who favored purely aesthetic principles. Borglum is reported to have said of the visit "When I saw Ruskin at Windermere he had drawn into himself. He knew his worth. He had full confidence in his own strength, but he was sad. The most marvelous magnificent, unappreciated genius the world has ever known." (Albert TenEyck Gardner, American Sculpture: A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1965, p. 102) Several years later Borglum created this statuette based on his sketches of the critic, completing it in time to be exhibited at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.