The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

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Recto: The Glacier des Bossons, Chamonix. Verso: A Sketch of the Glacier des Bossons, Chamonix John Ruskin

  • Curator’s description:


    The drawing shows the Glacier des Bossons running diagonally across the picture, with the Montagne de Cote beyond it. The river running along the valley below is presumably the Arve, and the buildings on the right of the drawing the outskirts of Chamonix.

    The verso carries a very tentative graphite outline sketch of the glacier and peaks above it.

    Ruskin spent five weeks at Chamonix in June 1849, staying at the Hôtel de l'Union in Chamonix. Taylor considers the drawing's style to match this period, and associates it with diary entries for 15 and 16 June: 'Drew after dinner from window at glacier des Bossons', and 'I have got on well with my drawing of the Glac des Bossons, too' (vol. II, pp. 386 & 387). Ruskin's references to drawing from his hotel window on 13 and 14 June may also relate to this work.

    The drawing was first catalogued in the Oxford collection in 1906, when Cook and Wedderburn included it as no. 91 in the Reference Series - one of a set of frames (nos 84-100) which Ruskin had never listed in his own catalogues of the collection.

    Ruskin had earlier noted, in his diary for 10 July 1835, that the Glacier des Bossons 'is far superior in beauty to the Mer de Glace, broken with splendid pyramids of dazzling ice, quite free from Granite dust. Its moraine however is very large, and all moraines are very ugly, for owing to the constant motion of the glacier the moraine is kept in motion too, and in consequence not even grass can grow upon its moving mass'. But in "Deucalion", he noted how it was receding: 'last summer, I was able to cross the dry bed of a glacier, which I had seen flowing, two hundred feet deep, over the same spot, forty years ago. And there I saw, what before I had suspected, that modern glaciers, like modern rivers, were not cutting their beds deeper, but filling them up.' (vol. I, ch. iii, § 3 = XXVI.126.)

    There is a small graphite study by Ruskin of the glacier itself, dated 1874, in the collection of the Guild of Saint George (R.2137; not in Morley). A similar scene, showing glacier and the mountains beyond it, but not the Arve and the foreground buildings, was reproduced in "Modern Painters", vol. IV, pl. 35.

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    recto: pen and wash in sepia ink, and bodycolour, over graphite on wove paper; verso: graphite
    338 x 477 mm
    Associated place
    bottom left, graphite (upside down): Glacier des Bossons from S E Window | Union
    centre, towards bottom, in ink (upside down): 120

    Presumably presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford); first recorded in the Ruskin Drawing School in 1906; transferred from the Ruskin Drawing School to the Ashmolean Museum c.1949

    No. of items
    Accession no.
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:


  • References in which this object is cited include:


    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 034

    Cook, Edward T., Studies in Ruskin: Some Aspects of the Work and Teaching of John Ruskin (Orpington: George Allen, 1890), pl. VI, f.p. 310

    Ruskin, John, The Diaries of John Ruskin, ed. Joan Evans and John Howard Whitehouse, 3 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956-1959)

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Works of John Ruskin’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), vol. XXI, pl. XXIX, f.p. 35

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogues, Notes and Instructions’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 21, cat. Reference no. 91


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