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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Crypt of Kirkstall Abbey (from the Liber Studiorum) Turner

  • Ruskin text

    62 Kirkstall Abbey. ( Turner’s Liber Studiorum). E
  • Details

    Turner (Joseph Mallord William Turner) (1775 - 1851) (designer, etcher, engraver)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    engraving and mezotint on paper
    210 x 292 mm (plate); 299 x 450 mm (sheet)
    Associated people
    Turner Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851) (publisher)
    Associated place
    within the plate-mark, all etched:
    top centre: A
    bottom left: Drawn Etched & Engraved by I.M.W. Turner Esqr. R.A. P.P.
    just below: A
    just below: 23 Ins. by 36 Ins.
    bottom centre: Original Drawing in the possession of John Soane Esqr. R.A. Professor of Architecture | Published Feby. 11. 1812, by I.M.W. Turner, Queen Ann Street West

    Bottom right, in ink: 14

    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. 62

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 112

    Ruskin, John, ‘Educational Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Educational no. 107

    Finberg, Alexander J., The History of Turner's Liber Studiorum: With a New Catalogue Raisonné (London: Ernest Benn, 1924), no. 39.II

    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. 112


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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

    62 Kirkstall Abbey. ( Turner’s Liber Studiorum). E
  • Ruskin's Educational series, 2nd ed. (1874)

    112. Kirkstall Abbey. ( Turner’s Liber Studiorum). E
  • Educational, manuscript (1878)

    112 107.

    Crypt of Kirkstall Abbey, drawn by Turner, showing the depth of Turner's sentiment fastening, not on the physical, but the moral ruin - Lo, the sparrow hath found her &c. Here, the cattle resting in perfect peace under the sacred vaults, and the last rays of the declining day fading from them, he shows through the arch the quiet trees and river shore that we may know in what sweet places the abbey was built. It is curious that Turner slightly exaggerates the stability, as Prout, monstrously, the ruin of the vaults above; Turner wishing to express their sanctity and therefore their endurance by God's blessing.

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