Based on extensive fieldwork, and research into John Ruskin's still little-interpreted archival material, notebooks and drawings (in the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University, UK and elsewhere), Stephen Kite offers an unprecedented account of the evolution of Ruskin's architectural thinking and observation in the context of Italy where his watching of building achieved its greatest intensity. Venice naturally figures large in a work that also examines other key sites including Verona, Lucca, Pisa, Florence, Milan and Monza; here, the fabrics are vividly read in their contexts against the rich evidence of Ruskin's diaries, his pocket-book sketches, architectural worksheets, drawings, and daguerrotypes (the early form of photography), and the drafts and published editions of the texts. Kite presents the complex story of Ruskin's visual thinking in architecture as a narrative of deepening interpretation and representation, focusing on the humbler monuments of Italy. He shows how Ruskin's early picturesque naturalism was transformed by the realisation that to understand the built realities confronting him in Italy demanded a closer engagement with the substance of the stones themselves; reflecting Ruskin's sense of his task as a near-archaeological gleaning and gathering of remains 'hidden in many a grass grown court, and silent pathway, and lightless canal'.
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'Stephen Kite's study gives us an unprecedented understanding of the development of Ruskin's observation of, and thinking about, Italian Gothic architecture in the period leading to the publication of The Stones of Venice. The book sheds substantial new light on Ruskin's thinking at a key period in his intellectual development. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.' Mark Swenarton, University of Liverpool, UK
'Kite’s professional concerns include architecture and conservation within the build environment, and his expertise runs through this skilful and enjoyable book.' Ruskin Review and Bulletin
'Building Ruskin's Italy is a well illustrated book … Stephen Kite's investigation of how Ruskin went from youthful traveller to knowledgeable architectural pundit fills a niche. By going beyond the boundaries of Venice, we are reminded of how Ruskin stretched his understanding of Italian Gothic architecture, and of his joy of discovery.' Eighth Lamp - Ruskin Studies Today
'[This is] a book that combines architectural acumen with a deft sense of the nuanced demands of archival research … [Stephen Kite] takes us deep into John Ruskin's techniques and expertise in order to show just how impactful his method of architectural observation and interpretation was upon later practices.' The Journal of Architecture
Contents: Introduction; 'Picturesque down to its door knockers': an Italian grand tour; 'Constant watchfulness': beginning the study of architecture (1841-45); Watching Byzantium (1846-50); 'Watchful wandering': evolving a Gothic taxonomy; Cities of bits: colour, ornament and spoils; Stones of Verona; Bibliography; Index.