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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Two Studies of a Flower of Kidney-Leaved London Pride ('Francesca Geum') John Ruskin

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour over graphite on wove paper
    361 x 264 mm
    Recto, all in graphite:
    bottom right: SaxFrancesca Geum | J R Brantwood [the 'Sax' erased]
    top right: 4

    Verso, bottom left, in graphite: WS II.29

    Presumably presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford); first recorded in the Ruskin Drawing School in 1878; 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. 277

    Ruskin, John, ‘Rudimentary Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Rudimentary no. 230

    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. Working Series no. II.29


    • Western Art Print Room

Ruskin's Catalogues

  • Ruskin's revision to the Rudimentary series (1878)

    W.S(2) 29 230.

    Flower of Francesca Geum magnified to show the varieties of form obtained by its position. The flower is actually a symmetrical star, and is always described by botanists as being so, the shape of the petal being approximately in all five that of the lowermost in the upper figure. The botanists never think of observing which way a plant twists its petals, that appearing to them an automatic action of no importance. R. Still less do they ever think of noticing whether there are any constant relations between the buds and the flower in their position on the flower-stem, whereas it frequently happens that the entire character and composition of a plant, considered artistically, depends upon these humourous habits of behaviour. Thus the olive-blossom practically always consists, during the early Spring, of two open flowers set level with two buds set across below them. The wild strawberry-blossom, in like man ner, always consists of one flower open, with one bud below it at an accurately fixed distance, and this Francesca blossom, in like manner, always consists of one flower open, and two buds set at fixed distance below it and depressed from the stalk (see lower figure), while the open blossom uniformly places itself so as to have one of its five petals pointing downwards, and advances this petal toward the light while it curves the two upper ones back from it (see also lower figure). The result of this arrangement is that when we gather the whole stalk of blossoms and look at it near we get various perspectives of the beautiful profile seen in the lower figure, while the flower in front has its R. lower petal seen at full length, as in the upper figure, the two lateral ones a little shorter, and the two upper conceal their extremities so as to round off their points altogether; and thus the whole flower associates itself in aspect with quite different families, like the Pelargoniums which have unequal leaves in their cinque-foil. This sketch is also useful in showing the scattered administration of colour in the Francescas by fragments and points; the ten stamens arranged in an outer and inner circle placing themselves between the petals in the wider circle and above the petals in the narrower - the effect of the whole being completed by the dashes of darker red on the petals themselves from which red stigmata the plant is now called Francesca in our School-botany. The sketch was made only to illustrate these points, it is much too careless to be copied; but I wish my botanical scholars to make studies of this kind of every wild blossom, not at all as paintings of them, but as notes of their mode of growth and methods of colour.

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