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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Drawing of a Dog from the Ormesby Psalter John Ruskin

  • Curator’s description:


    The drawing shows a dog wearing a hood and walking on its hind legs with the aid of a stick. It is taken from the Ormesby Psalter, which has a complex history, having been written in the late thirteenth century in East Anglia, and illuminated at intervals, most notably c.1310, and again c.1320 and over the next decade. It was eventually acquired, still unfinished, by one Robert of Ormesby, by whom it was presented to the Benedictine Cathedral Priory of Norwich. This drawing is taken from a detail of the upper border of folio 89 recto, containing the beginning of Psalm 68, 'Salvum me fac, Deus'; it was probably executed c.1310. Combined with the hare copied in the accompanying drawing, it makes up a picture of a dog disguised in human clothes approaching a hare.

    The date of the drawings is not certain, although they were most likely made between Ruskin's arrival in Oxford and their appearance in the 1872 catalogues of the Rudimentary Series.

    There is some confusion over the entries relating to the drawings of the dog and hare, as Ruskin's entry for no. 39 in the Rudimentary Series includes 'Sketch of Dog and Hare (enlarged)', whilst no. 41 is 'Conversation between Dog and Hare (enlarged)'. Assuming, as Cook and Wedderburn did (XXI.178 n. 2) that these are actually the same works, their position in the present catalogue is based upon that recorded by Cook and Wedderburn, therefore reflecting their position in 1906. Whichever number Ruskin intended them to be placed under (the confusion occurs in all printed editions of the Rudimentary catalogues), they were placed in the second section of the second cabinet, devoted to heraldry. They do not seem to have been covered by Ruskin's rather vague entry for nos 27-41 in his 1878 revision of the series, which simply says 'To be used at Mr. Macdonald's pleasure': a later note added to the manuscript states that only 26-38 from the 1878 revision remained in place.

    In his instructions for using the Rudimentary Series, Ruskin told his students to measure and draw these examples carefully. He went on to explain how different schools of manuscript illumination worked in a different order, the Anglo-Saxon and English manuscripts being drawn with the pen before being coloured. Work on these examples would give his students an understanding of the 'temper' of Gothic art, 'especially its humour and license of play in even its most precise drawing' (printed Rudimentary Series catalogues, pp. 43-44). Ruskin's copy of a falcon from another folio in the manuscript is now no. 167 in the Educational Series.

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over graphite on off-white paper
    257 x 176 mm
    Recto, bottom, left of centre, in graphite (recent): R. 41

    along the top, in graphite: Wood, O.[?] 2 right
    centre, the Ruskin School's stamp

    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:


    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 211.i

    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. 41, RUD.041.b

    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. 41

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercises Arranged for the Lower Drawing-School (London: Smith, Elder, 1872), cat. Rudimentary no. 41

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercise Arranged For the Lower Drawing-School (London: Spottiswoode, 1873), cat. Rudimentary no. 41

    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. 41


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