Radiant Form: Ruskin and Shells

Ruskin was a keen collector of shells, fascinated by their manifold shapes, patterns and colours. He noted that painters like Rembrandt and Titian used shells to demonstrate technical prowess. He produced his own studies of shells for use as teaching aids.

From the decorative arts to architecture, from mathematics to cosmic symbolism, the spiral forms of shells have always inspired questions about our relationship to the natural world. Sometimes considered as artworks made by God, shells accelerated the scientific discoveries of the Victorian age, from deep time to evolution.

Curated by Sandra Kemp, this new exhibition draws on Ruskin’s shell collections and shell paintings in Lancaster University’s Ruskin Whitehouse Collection to explore the technical and philosophical challenges presented by these beautiful enigmatic forms.


The Ruskin Whitehouse Collection was purchased by Lancaster University in 2019 with generous support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and others. The Collection is on permanent display at The Ruskin, Lancaster University and Brantwood. While The Ruskin is being renovated, this exhibition is one of a series profiling works from The Collection.

Event Information

Date & Time:30th July - 29th September 2024

Brantwood is an independent registered charity - The Brantwood Trust Coniston Cumbria LA21 8AD enquiries@brantwood.org.uk Telephone: 015394 41396