The aesthetics of the sublime and the picturesque fuelled the 'ruin lust' of the eighteenth century, but in the nineteenth century ruins also came to represent fears of the decay of civilisation and the destructive effects of industrialisation. In the twenthieth century these dystopian visions were made shockingly real after two world wars and successive economic crises. For contemporary artists the ruin has also become a way of thinking about art itself, conceived as a fragment of a lost past or a partial hint of a time to come. This publication accompanies a major exhibition exploring the theme of ruins and ruination in British art from the seventeenth century to the present day, considering how ruins have become the subject of visual and emotional fascination at particular historical moments. In a wide-ranging text, Brian Dillon explores the themes of Ruin Lust, The Fragment, The Catastrophic Imagination, Cities in Dust, The Waste Land, and Futures Past, illustrated with works by artists such as J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Paul Nash, Richard Long, Keith Arnatt, Tacita Dean, Jane and Louise Wilson and Mike Nelson.