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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Print of the Decoration on a Greek Amphora, showing Hephaestus, Hera, Poseidon, Apollo, Zeus, Athena, Eileithyia, Heracles and Ares Kaeppelin et Compagnie

  • Ruskin text

    23 E Zeus and the Great Gods. (Le Normand). E
  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The lithograph shows a series of Greek deities. From left to right, they are: Hephaestus, Hera, with Poseidon holding his trident just beside her, Apollo playing his lyre, Zeus, with Athena springing fully-armed from his forehead, Eileithyia, Heracles wearing his lion-skin, and Ares in armour and holding a round shield. It reproduces the decoration of a black-figure amphora, the so-called "Callias Vase", in the British Museum. The print was plate LXV.A in the first volume of Lenormant and de Witte's "Elite des monuments céramographiques", published in 1844. It was presumably taken from Ruskin's copy of the work now preserved in the Ruskin Library (inventory no. 1996B2621), which is missing many of its plates.

    The print was first catalogued by Ruskin in 1871, when it appeared as no 23 E in the Educational Series, entitled "Zeus and the Great Gods", accompanying a series of plates from Lenormant and de Witte in Case II, "Elementary Illustrations of Greek Design". It remained in the same position, although renumbered as no. 43, in the 1874 catalogue of the series, but does not appear in Ruskin's 1878 reorganisation of the series.

    Ruskin referred to the image in "Aratra Pentelici", expanding upon his lecture of 26 November 1870 on "Imagination", when he discussed Hephaestus's role at the birth of Athena: this plate 'gives you (as far as the light on the rounded vase will allow it to be deciphered) a characteristic representation of the scene, as conceived in later art' (Aratra Pentelici, §§ 73-74 = XX.247-248; see also § 2 n. = XX.194).

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    Kaeppelin et Compagnie (active c. 1839 - c. 1860) (printer)
    A. Rey (active c. 1844 - c. 1858) (lithographer)
    Object type
    print
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over lithograph on wove paper
    Dimensions
    208 x 422 mm (stone); 252 x 472 mm (sheet)
    Inscription
    All printed, just outside the border of the image:
    top right: PL.LXV, A.
    bottom left: Lith. de Kaeppelin et C.ie
    bottom right: A. Rey sc.

    Recto, top left of centre, in ink: conf. 57 for Hera [offset right of centre]

    Verso, top centre, the Ruskin School's stamp
    Provenance

    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
    1
    Accession no.
    WA.RS.ED.043
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:

    Subjects

  • References in which this object is cited include:

    References

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 23.E

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 43

    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. 43

    Lenormant, Charles, and Jean de Witte, Elite des monuments céramographiques: Matériaux pour l'histoire des religions et des moeurs de l'antiquité, 4 vols in 8 (Paris: Leleux, 1844-1861), vol. I, pl. LXV A

    Ruskin, John, ‘Aratra Pentelici: Six Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture, Given Before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1870’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Widderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 20, pl. VI, f.p. 248

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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