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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Near Blair Athol (from the Liber Studiorum) Turner

  • Ruskin text

    147. Blair Athol. (Liber Studiorum). E
  • Curator’s description:


    The print shows a scene on the River Tilt, 'about half a mile above its junction with the Garry', according to Ruskin. A kilted angler stands in the river, holding his rod aloft.

    This is one of the prints from Turner's "Liber studiorum", issued in part VI, published on 1 June 1811, classified by Turner as a 'mountainous' landscape. The presence of the lettering, and the absence of any visible mark in the margin and of a faint 'H' below the 'e' of 'Duke', identify this as the first state of the print. It is based on drawings made by Turner in his Scottish tour in the summer of 1801.

    The print was first catalogued in the collection by Ruskin in 1870, when he listed it as no. 31 F in the Educational series in the "Catalogue of Examples", alongside several other prints from the "Liber studiorum". In 1871, it was renumbered as no. 97, part of Case VI, "Advanced Illustrations of Landscape", where it again accompanied plates from the "Liber studiorum", as well as some of Turner's pencil sketches for them. By 1874, it had been renumbered as no. 147, but remained in the same position in the series. It is not mentioned in Ruskin's 1878 reorganisation of the Educational Series.

    In the "Catalogue of Examples", Ruskin noted how Turner had rejected the beautiful incidental details, instead capturing in 'this single scene the spirit of Scotland'. He made very similar statements in his second lecture on landscape, "Light and Shade", delivered on 9 February 1871 (Lectures on Landscape § 36 = XXII.35-36).

  • Details

    Turner (Joseph Mallord William Turner) (1775 - 1851) (designer, etcher)
    William Say (1768 - 1834) (engraver)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    etching and mezzotint on paper
    193 x 269 mm (sheet); 216 x 297 mm (original mount)
    Associated people
    Turner Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851) (publisher)
    Associated place
    below the print, engraved:
    left: Drawn & Etched by J.M.W. Turner Esqr. R.A.
    right: Engraved by W. Say Engraver to H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester
    centre: NEAR BLAIR ATHOL SCOTLAND | Published June 1811 by J. M[...]
    just to the right, in graphite: 10 3/8 x 7 1/8 b
    on the mount, bottom right, in ink: 15

    Verso, towards left, towards bottom; and again towards right, bottom, 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:


    Finberg, Alexander J., The History of Turner's Liber Studiorum: With a New Catalogue Raisonné (London: Ernest Benn, 1924), no. 30

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 97

    Ruskin, John, ‘Lectures on Architecture and Painting, Delivered in Edinburgh in November, 1853’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 12, pl. V, f.p. 35

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 147

    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

    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. 147

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Educational no. 31.F


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Ruskin's Catalogues

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