Ruskin Library Exhibition - George Allen of Sunnyside
Publishers are occasionally the subject of books, but rarely of exhibitions. The new display in the Ruskin Library at Lancaster University marks the centenary of the death of George Allen (1832-1907), who rose from humble beginnings to create a publishing house under the encouragement of John Ruskin.
Allen was the most significant pupil in the evening drawing classes conducted by Ruskin at the Working Men's College from 1854. The son of a Nottinghamshire publican, he had been apprenticed to an uncle, a builder in Clerkenwell, London, and was at that time working as a carpenter.
Enthused and encouraged by Ruskin, who saw in him an "innate disposition to art," Allen declined employment with William Morris's firm in order to devote himself to Ruskin's service, as his assistant and most reliable engraver. From 1870 he also became Ruskin's publisher, in 1874 building 'Sunnyside,' a large house in Orpington, Kent, which remained the focus of all subsequent Ruskin publications, up to the Library Edition of 1903-12 (completed by Allen's family).
Together with much little-known archive material, Allen's drawings and engravings are shown alongside Ruskin drawings and watercolours, including several formerly owned by Allen. Loans include drawings belonging to the Guild of St. George (in the care of Sheffield Museums & Galleries Trust) and examples from Allen's extensive collection of minerals, now in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.