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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The Northern Arch of the West Entrance of Amiens Cathedral John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text

    51. North porch of the west front of the Cathedral of Amiens. Sketch taken before its restoration.

    I introduce you to Gothic design by this memorial, now valuable, slight as it is, of what was, at the time the sketch was made, one of the most beautiful things in all the world. The colour of the front of Amiens, in 1856, was an exquisitely soft grey, touched with golden lichen; and the sheltered sculpture was as fresh as when first executed, only the exposed parts broken or mouldering into forms which made them more beautiful than if perfect. All is now destroyed; and even the sharp, pure rose-moulding (of which hardly a petal was injured) cut to pieces, and, for the most part, replaced by a modern design.

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    drawing
    Material and technique
    watercolour over graphite on wove paper
    Dimensions
    371 x 309 mm
    Associated place
    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.051
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:

    Subjects

  • References in which this object is cited include:

    References

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Educational no. 24

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 51

    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. 51

    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 060

    Ruskin, John, The Diaries of John Ruskin, ed. Joan Evans and John Howard Whitehouse, 3 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956-1959), pl. 42, f.p. 522

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 26

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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

    26 Amiens Cathedral. Northern Arch of west Entrance, sketched in 1856. M
  • Ruskin's Educational series, 2nd ed. (1874)

    51. Amiens Cathedral. Northern arch of west entrance, sketched in 1856. M
  • Ruskin's Catalogue of Examples (1870)

    24. North porch of the west front of the Cathedral of Amiens. (R.) Sketch taken before its restoration.

    I introduce you to Gothic sculpture by this memorial, now valuable, slight as it is, of what was, at the time the sketch was made, one of the most beautiful things in all the world. The colour of the front of Amiens, in 1856, was an exquisitely soft grey touched with golden lichen; and the sheltered sculpture was as fresh as when first executed, only the exposed parts broken or mouldering into forms which made them more beautiful than if perfect. All is now destroyed; and even the sharp, pure rose-moulding (of which hardly a petal was injured) cut to pieces, and, for the most part, replaced by a modern design.

    Draw this rose-moulding with pencil, and the top of the gable with colour.

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