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  • 2016rohrphd

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Drawing on nature: the legacy of Ruskin’s moral cosmos

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Doris Rohr
Publication date2016
Number of pages288
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This interdisciplinary project investigates drawing as a form of looking, and the possibility of transcending looking, into perception. Words and photos constitute a text that weaves together distinctive strands; those of drawing, those of writing in italics (subjective, personal reflections: the journal) and those of academic writing with reference to scientists, artists and philosophers of relevance. The format is deliberately interdisciplinary, defying traditional academic conventions and proposing creative and hybrid interrelations of the visual with the verbal. The purpose of the text is to re-establish drawing as a means of perceiving and understanding, to gain insight. John Ruskin advocated drawing as a means of looking and self-education, encouraging all to learn to draw in order to love nature.
In the text submitted here, the visual and the verbal are interpreting each other. The drawings form a visual journal alongside the written journal, exploring continuous narrative on paper and in notebooks. Research methods included walking, observing and collecting. The drawings aim to reveal a spiritual dimension of nature through descriptions of journeys and encounters, actual and imagined, with inanimate and animate beings, thereby visually presenting a stream of consciousness.
Ruskin’s spiritual and moral view of art and nature provides much contemporary relevance in an age where the shortcomings of the ideologies associated with modernism have become recognised and critiqued. Philosophical and ecological considerations for the wellbeing of the life-world, the cosmos, have created a basis for a reappraisal of Ruskin’s legacy. Drawing and writing become tools to see the world and to build responsible relations with it. In order to be a good artist, a good drawer or writer, art needs to strive for moral integrity.