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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A seated figure George Romney

  • Curator’s description:


    The drawing shows a female figure in profile to the right, sitting on the ground with one knee drawn up and her hand resting on the ground; she wears a loose gown.

    Although described by Ruskin only as a 'Sketch by Reynolds', Cook and Wedderburn noted that it was 'A rough sketch for a woman's portrait' (XXI.206 n. 2). Hewison, in his edition of the Rudimentary Series catalogues, notes that Ruskin's draft list for the Series described 'Sir Joshua, sitting lady' in this position; the only one of Ruskin's 'Reynolds' (in fact Romneys) to show a sitting lady is this drawing, no. 1557 in David Blayney Brown's catalogue of the Ashmolean's 18th-century British drawings - Brown, however, lists all Ruskin's 'Reynolds' as no. 29 in the Standard Series, ommitting any reference to the Rudimentary Series. Despite identifying the subject of Rudimentary Series no. 124, Hewison placed Standard Series no. 29.a in the current catalogue (Brown no. 1558) in this position.

    Ruskin's 'Reynolds' (this drawing and Standard Series nos 29-34) may be the drawings which he 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). Although referred to by Ruskin as being by Reynolds, the drawings are clearly by Romney.

    First catalogued in 1872, this drawing was included as no. 124 in the second section of the fifth cabinet in the Rudimentary Series, 'Late Italian Revival, Spanish and English', where it showed 'the dominant power of chiaroscuro in the modern Revival art'. In the 1878 reorganisation of the series, the section was changed to include landscape studies, and its place was taken by a twilight sky by Alexander Macdonald.

    In his instructions on using the Rudimentary Series, Ruskin describes how sepia drawings should be done speedily using a flat wash - the drawings in the Standard Series, '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
    grey washes over graphite, on pale grey laid paper
    310 x 271 mm
    Recto, bottom right corner, in graphite: 33

    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. 1557

    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), cat. Rudimentary no. 124, RUD.124

    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]), cat. Rudimentary no. 124

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercises Arranged for the Lower Drawing-School (London: Smith, Elder, 1872), cat. Rudimentary no. 124

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercise Arranged For the Lower Drawing-School (London: Spottiswoode, 1873), cat. Rudimentary no. 124

    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. Rudimentary no. 124


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