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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Mezzotint of Reynolds's "Portrait of John Armstrong, M.D." Edward Fisher

  • Curator’s description:


    The print has been trimmed to within 10 mm of the plate-mark. There are a series of white dots within the image, many of which seem to coincide with small elevations on the print's surface, and are presumably the result of slight abrasion; otherwise, it is in reasonable condition. The plate seems not to have been wiped entirely clean before the print was pulled, as there is a definite tone to the backround behind the lettering - which also shows light rocker marks in places, having presumably not been fully burnished before printing.

    Dr Armstrong is shown half-length against a plain, dark background.

    Cook and Wedderburn (XXI.27 n.1) identify the sitter as John Armstrong, M.D. (1709-1779), by all accounts an indolent and misanthropic individual who combined the twin activities of physician and poet in a somewhat unsuccessful career. The young Ruskin quoted a phrase from his poem on "The Art of Preserving Health", published in 1744, in "The Poetry of Architecture" (§ 43 = I.38).

    The print was first listed in the Teaching Collection in 1870, when it was included in the "Catalogue of Examples" as no. 44 in the Reference Series, a position it retained in the 1872 catalogue of the series. The print formed part of a sequence of pictures by painters - all portrait-painters - who applied paint broadly, using the edges of the painted areas to denote outlines, rather than drawing them in with the point of the brush (Catalogue of Examples, p. 19).

  • Details

    Edward Fisher (active 1772 - 1785) (engraver)
    after Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723 - 1792)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    mezzotint on laid paper
    355 x 254 mm (plate); 368 x 268 mm (sheet)
    Recto, all engraved below the image:
    immediately below the image, left: S:r Joshua Reynolds Pinx..t
    immediately below the image, bottom right: Edw:d Fisher Sculp..t
    centre: JOHN ARMSTRONG M.D. | The Suffrage of the wise, The Praise that's worth Ambition, | is attain'd By sense alone, & Dignity of Mind.

    Verso, bottom right, in graphite: Very fine G. B. IX | before Publication £16,

    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:


    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Standard no. 44

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Reference Series Including Temporarily the First Section of the Standard Series (London: Smith, Elder, [1872]), cat. Standard no. 44

    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. 44


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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