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

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

Browse: 1470 objects

Reference URL


Send e-mail

Contact us about this object

Send e-mail

Send to a friend

Recto: a Lady Leaning on a Pedestal. Verso: figure studies George Romney

  • Curator’s description:


    The recto shows a woman in a loose gown, standing facing the viewer, her head turned to the right as she leans on a classical pedestal just to her right. The background is filled with trees and sky. This is presumably a study for a portrait, although it has not been related to a particular painting. The verso shows a series of seated, kneeling and standing figures in strained poses, very cursorily indicated in graphite.

    One of a set of drawings by Romney, first catalogued by Cook and Wedderburn in 1906 in the Standard Series, as '29-34. "Original Studies of Figures for Portraits" (by Reynolds).' However, Ruskin described the drawings as being in the second cabinet of the Reference Series - the position they occupied in 1906 - in his 1878 revision of the Rudimentary Series catalogue (fol. clv); in 1872 he simply described them as being in the Reference Series (Rudimentary Series catalogues, pp. 50-1). These may be the drawings Ruskin described in a letter to Frederic (later Lord) Leighton of June 1863 as 'some dashes in sepia by Reynolds', and which he hoped Leighton would come and see in Denmark Hill (XXXVI.446).

    The individual drawings' positions within the numerical sequence were not specified, save no. 32 which can be identified by Cook and Wedderburn's description of it as 'a study for a portrait of a judge, as one may tell from the wig'. The other works have been assigned numbers arbitrarily, although the smallest have been placed in frames together.

    Although referred to by Ruskin as being by Reynolds, the drawings are clearly by Romney. In his instructions on using the Rudimentary Series, Ruskin describes how sepia drawings should be done speedily using a flat wash - these drawings, 'among the most valuable examples of art in the rooms', presumably embodied this technique (Rudimentary Series catalogues, pp. 50-1). In the notes for his 1878 revision of the Rudimentary Series, Ruskin compared them with Rudimentary Series no. 290, one of his studies of 'leafage' enlarged from a photograph, sketched in a single wash.

  • Details

    George Romney (1734 - 1802)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    recto: pen and brown ink and dark bistre washes over graphite; verso: graphite; on buff laid paper
    406 x 304 mm

    Possibly John Ruskin by June 1863; presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford), 1875; 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:


    Brown, David Blayney, Ashmolean Museum Oxford: Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings, iv: The Earlier British Drawings: British Artists and Foreigners Working in Britain Born Before c. 1775 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), no. 1559

    Ruskin, John, The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, in the Arrangement of 1873, ed. Robert Hewison (London: Lion and Unicorn Press, 1984), p. 206

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in Practice of Elementary Drawing, Arranged with Reference to the First Series of Examples in the Drawings Schools of the University of Oxford (n.p., [1872])

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercises Arranged for the Lower Drawing-School (London: Smith, Elder, 1872)

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercise Arranged For the Lower Drawing-School (London: Spottiswoode, 1873)

    Ruskin, John, ‘Rudimentary Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives

    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. Standard no. 29-034


    • Western Art Print Room

© 2013 University of Oxford - Ashmolean Museum