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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Freaky Sunset anonymous British

  • Ruskin text

    56 Sunset. Old Print after Turner. E
  • Details

    anonymous British (Anonymous (British)) (etcher)
    after Revd William Gilpin (1724 - 1804)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour over etching and aquatint (the borders etched) on wove paper
    222 x 310 mm (plate); 266 x 341 mm (sheet)
    Recto, bottom centre, in ink: Effect No. 22. - Freaky Sunset.

    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. 56

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 106

    Ruskin, John, ‘Educational Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Educational no. 103

    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. 106


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

  • Ruskin's Educational series, 2nd ed. (1874)

    106. Sunset. Old Print after Turner. E
  • Educational, manuscript (1878)

    106 103.

    Sunset; coloured engraving, after Turner, from the same series, published in illustration of effect of light, numbering twenty or twenty-five Plates. This one is quite of intense moral interest, showing already all his sadness of disposition, his love of Classic Form, the ideal of the stone-pine being already here, which goes on to the days of his Childe Harold [Compare the transitional form of it throughout the Liber Studiorum ] and already it shows his perceptions of the brightest colours of sky, from painting which in youthful delight he retired to put himself under such discipline as that shown in Nos.130, 131, and to paint for at least twenty years merely in Grey and Brown.

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