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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Pilaster on the unfinished Facade of Sant' Anastasia, Verona John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text

    43 Pilaster of unfinished façade of the Church of St. Anastasia, Verona. M
  • Curator’s description:


    The drawing shows the upper section of two pilasters on the west facade of the church of Sant' Anastasia, Verona. These are: the pilaster on the left edge of the facade, where it joins onto the wall which supports the Castelbarco Tomb; in front of it, only partially drawn, is the pilaster immediately to the left of main portal. Both are made up of marbles and other stones of different colours, and the far pilaster is decoratd with foliate patterns in relief. They are drawn from above, and to the side: Taylor suggests Ruskin took advantage of the scaffold which had been erected by some workmen at the time he was working on the drawing. Taylor notes that Ruskin was drawing the facade on 26 and 27 May 1869. (The drawing of the lower sections of the pilasters, seen from the same angle, no. 68 in the Reference Series, seems to have drawn yhe following month.)

    The present drawing was first catalogued in the Oxford collections in 1871, as no. 43 in Case IV of the Educational Series, which contained "Illustrations of Italian Gothic, with its resultant art"; as the Series was renumbered in 1874, it became no. 93, but remained in then same place.

    Ruskin included both pilaster drawings in his Verona exhibition in February 1870, noting of the upper section that 'The purple and fine-grained white marbles of the pilaster are entirely uninjured in surface by three hundred years' exposure' (no. 39 = XIX.457), whilst the drawing of the lower section showed 'the effect of differently coloured marbles arranged in carefully unequal masses' (no. 40 = XIX.457). He also seems to have referred to them in his lecture on colour on 23 February 1871, noting that the areas of colour were 'edified', i.e. laid next to each other like stones in walls, rather than superimposed. They also showed how, by surrounding white paper with colour, its whiteness was intensified; and he remarked upon the absence of black in them. (Lectures on Landscape, §§ 72-3 = XXII.55.)

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over graphite on paper, some lines ruled
    429 x 245 mm
    Associated place

    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, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 43

    Ruskin, John, ‘Drawings and Photographs, Illustrative of the Art of Verona, Shown at the Royal Institution, Feb. 4th 1870’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 19, no. 39 = XIX.457

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 93

    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. no. 108

    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. 93

    Ruskin, John, ‘Lectures on Landscape: Delivered at Oxford in Lent Term, 1871’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 22


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Ruskin's Catalogues

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