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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View of the Beautiful Island (Isola Bella, Lago Maggiore) Gabriel Ludwig Lory

  • Ruskin text

    53 Isola Bella, Lago Maggiore . Old coloured print. E
  • Details

    Gabriel Ludwig Lory (1763 - 1840) (engraver)
    Mathias Gabriel Lory (1784 - 1846) (engraver)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour over etching and aquatint on wove paper
    152 x 250 mm (plate); 179 x 275 mm (sheet)
    Associated people
    Rudolph Ackermann (1764 - 1834) (publisher)
    Associated place
    Recto, below the image, printed: VIEW OF THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND. | Pubd. at R. ACKERMANN'S REPOSITORY of ARTS, 101. Strand, 1820.

    Verso, centre, the Ruskin School's stamp

    On a separate paper label, apparently written in the following sequence:
    top left, in brush and ink, struck through in pen and ink: 109
    top right, in ink, struck through in ink: 54
    bottom left, in ink, struck through in graphite: 53
    bottom right, in graphite: 1/5

    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. 53

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 103

    Ruskin, John, ‘Educational Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Educational no. 105

    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. 103


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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