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

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

Ruskin's Educational series, 1st ed. (1871)

Ruskin's first catalogue of 300 works for the instruction of undergraduates and his notes on the use of particular examples.

Educational 1 cover

Ruskin's Catalogues: 1 object

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Ruskin assembled a diverse collection of artworks for his drawing school in Oxford, including watercolours by J.M.W. Turner and drawings by Ruskin himself.  He taught students to draw as a way of educating them in how to look at art and the world around them.  

Ruskin divided his Teaching Collection into four main series: Standard, Reference, Educational and Rudimentary. Each item was placed in a numbered frame, arranged in a set of cabinets, so that they all had a specific position in the Collection (although Ruskin often moved items about as his ideas changed). 

When incorporated into the Ashmolean’s collection in the last century, the works were removed from the frames and the sequence was lost.  Here, Ruskin's original catalogues, notes and instructions - in his chosen order and in his own words - are united with images of the works and links to modern curatorial descriptions.

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Study of late Greek Treatment of Foliage, from a Coin of Syracuse Arthur Burgess

  • Ruskin text

    22 E Late Greek Treatment of Foliage. (Coin of Syracuse). A
  • Details

    Arthur Burgess (1843 - 1886)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    coloured chalk on wove paper
    487 x 338 mm
    top left, in ink, crossed out in graphite: 90
    just below, in ink, crossed out in graphite: 22 E
    top, left of centre, in graphite, surrounded in a graphite circle: 30
    bottom centre, the Ruskin School's stamp
    just to the right, in graphite (recent): Burgess | E. 38

    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, ‘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. 38

    Ruskin, John, ‘Educational Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Educational no. 30

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 22.E

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 38


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

  • Ruskin's Educational series, 1st ed. (1871)

    22 E Late Greek Treatment of Foliage. (Coin of Syracuse). A
  • Ruskin's Educational series, 2nd ed. (1874)

    38. Late Greek Treatment of Foliage. (Coin of Syracuse).A
  • Educational, manuscript (1878)

    38 30.

    An exquisite enlargement, by Mr Burgess, of the wreath of olive round the head of Jupiter on a copper coin of Syracuse. This is to be compared, first, with Example No.10 in order that the student may feel the manner in which the Greeks adapt natural vegetable form to ornamental purpose; and, secondly, that he may recognise the undulating languor of the Greek lines as opposed to the spring or rigidity of the natural one. In my drawing of the olive spray , however, this is not enough seen, because the study was made from dry leaves which had already lost part of their expression of strength.

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