Ruskin Library Exhibition
Ruskin and the Persephone Myth
Dinah Prentice, Persephone Rising 1992
A new exhibition at the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University, focuses on John Ruskin and the Persephone Myth. As well as drawings, books and manuscripts from the uniquely comprehensive Whitehouse Collection held at Lancaster, it includes some major loans. Ruskin was a friend and supporter of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery have lent Proserpine (1882), the last completed oil painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The exhibition begins by examining the influence of the myth in art from classical times to the present day, from ancient Greek coins (which Ruskin collected) to the huge silk quilted textile Persephone Rising (1992), lent by the artist, Dinah Prentice.
The great Victorian writer and artist was well versed in classical mythology, and in many writings discussed the story of Persephone, tricked by Hades into eating some pomegranate seeds, binding her to return to the Underworld for part of each year. But her release each Spring, when the world comes to life, associated her with the seasons and with fertility, as well as with death. Along with Ruskin’s studies of flowers and plants, which led to Proserpina – his book of new, humanised, mythologised botany – there is the tragedy of his love of the young, doomed Rose La Touche and his identification of her with Proserpine. Alan Davis, guest curator of the exhibition, says: “An important purpose of the exhibition is to show Ruskin’s mythologizing in a light that illuminates its highly personal characteristics, while also making clear its deep roots in universal human experience. As Ruskin himself observed: ‘The thoughts of all the greatest and wisest men hitherto, since the world was made, have been expressed through mythology’.”
Ruskin and the Persephone Myth; exhibition organised by Alan Davis, Visiting Fellow, The Ruskin Centre, Lancaster University.
Ruskin Library, open daily, admission free