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

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

Ruskin's Standard & Reference series (1872)

Exemplary works of art. In the catalogue of the Reference series, items marked 'M' are drawings "by my own Hand" (by Ruskin), P are photographs, E engravings and A by Ruskin's Assistant, Arthur Burgess.

Standard & Reference Cover

Ruskin's Catalogue of the Standard Series / 2nd Cabinet

    • Carlo Naya (Firm) - Photograph of Mantegna's Fresco of "The Martyrdom of Saint James" in the Church of Eremitani, Padua 35. Martyrdom of St. James. (Mantegna.) Photograph from fresco in church of Eremitani at Padua .

      You will probably at first see little to admire in this; but, as you learn to draw, and as your taste is formed in ornamental design, you will return to it with continually increasing astonishment. I hope to illustrate various portions of it separately.

    • 36. Portrait (I believe the person is unknown) by Mantegna. Portrait by Raphael.

      The uppermost of these two is far the finest work, though the superficial qualities of Raphael’s are more attractive.

      Mantegna’s may be taken as a perfect type of the schools of delineation in Italy; and cannot, in workmanship, be surpassed. Note especially the treatment of the hair, which is drawn with the precision of Dürer, yet the breadth of Titian: and, with respect to the execution of these details by the masters of the fifteenth century, as well as to the method of early practice in drawing with the brush, which I wish you to pursue yourselves, read the following extract from Mrs. Heaton’s Life of Dürer:—

      Camerarius relates a pretty little anecdote apropos of the visit of Giovanni Bellini to our artist, which he probably learnt from Dürer’s own lips. He says that Giovanni, on seeing Dürer’s works, was particularly struck with the fineness and beautiful painting of the hair in them, and asked Dürer as a particular mark of friendship, to give him the brush wherewith he executed such marvellously fine work. Dürer offered him a number of brushes of all sorts, and told him to choose which he preferred, or, if he liked, he was welcome to take them all. Giovanni, thinking that Dürer had not understood him, again explained that he only wanted the particular brush with which he was accustomed to paint such long and fine parallel strokes; whereupon Dürer took up one of the ordinary brushes, such as he had offered to Bellini, and proceeded to paint a long and fine tress of woman’s hair, thereby convincing Bellini that it was the painter, and not the brush, that did the work. Bellini avowed afterwards that he would not have believed it possible, had he not seen it with his own eyes. See farther the notes on Edu. 50.

    • 37. Madonnas by John Bellini and Raphael.

      I wish you to compare the manner of conception in these two examples, as of execution in the preceding ones, the Lombardic master having, I think, the advantage in both respects.

    • Blank frame 38. The place is left for Van-Eyck, whom I cannot yet justly represent.
    • 39, 29. And these two for Holbein.

    Then, the examples from 31 to 40 will sufficiently illustrate the schools of delineation, in which the drawing is in great part wrought with the point of the brush, and is indeed as precise as if it had been designed with that of a pen. In Luini’s fresco the shades are frequently produced as an engraver would work them, by cross hatching; and the faces are more or less treated as Lionardo would a chalk drawing, only with colour for chalk.

    But the last group of this series of fifty, 40 to 50, represents the work of the greatest masters of painting, by whom the brush is used broadly, and the outline, if any, struck with the edge of it, not the point. These are all masters of portraiture, and I have chosen portraits as the best examples of their art.

    I shall enter into no criticism of them in this Catalogue, as there will be occasion for continual reference to them in subsequent lectures. The examples of Vandyck will be changed. I cannot get any to please me yet; but the first, though ill engraved, is one of his best equestrian portraits, and is referred to for various particulars in Modern Painters, vol. v. p. 278 . Titian and Tintoret necessarily reappear in this group, their work having been introduced before only for comparison with that of other schools.

    • Ferreri, C. - Engraving of van Dyck's Portrait of Prince Francesco Tommaso di Savoia-Carignano on horseback 41. Prince of the House of Savoy. (Vandyck.)
    • 42.

      • unidentified - Photograph of a copy after Van Dyck's "Portrait of James, Duke of York" Daughter of Charles the First. (Vandyck.) Lowest in the frame, beneath
      • Cunego, Domenico - Engraving of Titian's "Portrait of Clarissa Strozzi" a little lady of the Strozzi family , by Titian.
    • Fisher, Edward - Mezzotint of Reynolds's "Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Keppel adorning a Herm of Hymen" 43. An English Girl. (Reynolds.)
    • Fisher, Edward - Mezzotint of Reynolds's "Portrait of John Armstrong, M.D." 44. An English Gentleman. (Dr. Armstrong.) (Reynolds.)
    • unidentified - Photograph of Velázquez's "Portrait of Donna Margarita of Austria on Horseback" 45. Margaret of Austria. (Velasquez).
    • Laurent, Juan - Photograph of Velázquez's "Portrait of Juan Francisco de Pimentel, Count of Benavente" 46. Portrait of a Knight (unknown). (Velasquez.)
    • unidentified - Photograph of Titian's "Portrait of Charles V at the Battle of Mühlberg" 47. Charles V. on Horseback. (Titian.)
    • unidentified - Photograph of Titian's "Portrait of Charles V with a Hound" 48. Charles V. with his Irish Dog. (Titian.)
    • Blank frame 49. (Tintoret—not yet chosen.)
    • 50.

      I have placed these two together, and last of the examples illustrating pictorialpower; for the range and grasp of intellect exhibited by the works of which theyindicate two extremities of the scale, (the one being an example of simplest veracity incharacter, the other of imagination as facile as it is magnificent) is, I am convinced, thegreatest ever reached by human intellect in the arts.

      This fiftieth example will terminate the group of standards for illustration ofmethods. The next group will be chosen chiefly from the Tuscan schools, to illustratethe forms of thought which found noblest expression in the art of painting inChristian periods; but this cannot yet be arranged for some time.

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