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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Study of Clouds, Norwood John Ruskin

  • Curator’s description:


    The drawing shows a series of mare's tails, some reddened by the sun, with broad areas of blue and grey beneath them.

    Ruskin records that the sketch was made 'from the Crystal Palace Hotel' (Rudimentary Series manuscript catalogue), which Cook and Wedderburn gloss as in fact being the Queen's Hotel, Norwood (XXI.279 n. 2 & XIX.xxxiv). The drawing was presumably executed in 1865, the date of another study, also drawn at Norwood, entitled "Evening" and given by Ruskin to Charles Eliot Norton (no. 1210 in Cook and Wedderburn's catalogue of Ruskin's drawings).

    The drawing first appears in the 1878 revisions of the Teaching Collection, as no. 122 in the Rudimentary Series, where it was framed below a study of the Staubbach, alongside other drawings of mountains and skies. By 1906, however, it had been moved to no. 289 in the Educational Series, where it replaced Turner's engraving of an abbey in Yorkshire which had, by then, been removed from the collection.

    Discussing the drawing in his manuscript catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, Ruskin recalled how the clouds in the drawing recalled those of his youth, and noted how, although imperfect, they would show his students how to do better.

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour on grey paper
    163 x 221 mm
    Recto, right of centre, in graphite, Ruskin: Pale green

    bottom right, in graphite: Edu289.
    centre, the Ruskin School's stamp
    just below, in ink: M.28

    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. 089

    Ruskin, John, ‘Rudimentary Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Rudimentary no. 122

    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. Educational no. 289bis


    • Western Art Print Room

Ruskin's Catalogues

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


    Sketch of the Staub-bach, slight, but yet useful, as an example of easy pine-drawing, and interesting in noting as state of the fall when the water is low, which, though often despised by travellers, is of exquisite beauty in reality; the water coming dark against the sky at its first drooping from the cliff and diffusing itself, as it were, into a fountain upside down. Note also in this sketch that the paper is left gray, though the water has to come dark against it, because the light in the drawing, if it had ever been completed, would have been on the snowy mountains beyond the lower cliff, which conquered sky and water and all. The quantity of work which is done in the part of this R. sketch which is done ought always to be enough, if well and deliberately applied, to express with sufficient refinement all the form and colour necessary in a sketch. The lower subject in this frame is a memorandum of an exquisitely beautiful sky of English make. The forms of the clouds are those which I had continually in sight at sunrise and sunset in my early youth, being characteristic of South England and North France; their delicacy being partly dependent always on windy and unsettled climate. This sketch was made from the Crystal Palace Hotel, the brown stain on the right being of course London smoke. The crimson of the clouds is raw and unsatisfactory, but if the student will draw skies till he does them as well as this, he will know how to do them better, and perhaps be more fortunate than I in having time to use his knowledge.

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