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 Kapellbrücke at Luzern (Lucerne) John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text

    71 The Old Bridge of Lucerne . Sketch in 1862. M
  • Curator’s description:


    The old covered wooden bridge at Luzern, known as the Kapellbrücke, traverses the page from the left to meet the solid tower of the Wasserturm on the right. Above its roof the twin towers of the Hofkirche are visible. Below it flow the waters of the Reuss.

    Although Ruskin dates the drawing to 1862 in his entry in the first Educational Series catalogue, Taylor proposes that it should be connected to diary entries 17 to 19 October 1861: 'Paint bit of Lucerne Bridge'; 'Painting Bridge. Get on badly'; 'Paint Bridge; get on well but stopped by cold' (Ruskin, Diaries, vol. II, p. 554) and to details in an unpublished summary of Ruskin's journeys of 1884 (Ruskin Library, University of Lancaster, L 8).

    First catalogued in 1871 as no. 71 in the Educational Series, the drawing was listed in Case V, which contained 'Elementary Illustrations of Landscape'; it was renumbered as no. 116 in 1874. Although not mentioned in Ruskin's 1878 reorganisation of the Series, it seems likely that it retained its position, as it would certainly fit in the group of works which were intended to illustrate 'what German and Swiss life were in their happiest associations with landscape about the beginning of this Century' (Educational Series manuscript catalogue, fol. LXXV).

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over graphite on wove paper
    297 x 393 mm
    Associated place
    Verso, the Ruskin School's stamp

    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:


    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 083

    Cook, Edward T., Studies in Ruskin: Some Aspects of the Work and Teaching of John Ruskin (Orpington: George Allen, 1890), pl. IV, f.p. 306

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

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 71

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 116

    Hayman, John, John Ruskin and Switzerland (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1990), no. 81, p. 105, no. 81, p. 105

    Ruskin, John, ‘Unbound Letters to Various Correspondents’, n.d., Lancaster, Ruskin Library, University of Lancaster

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Works of John Ruskin’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), vol. VI, pl. A, f.p. 394

    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. 116


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Ruskin's Catalogues

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