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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Saint Jerome in his Study Albrecht Dürer

  • Ruskin text

    109 St. Jerome and his Lion. (Dürer). E
  • Curator’s description:


    Saint Jerome sits writing at his desk, surrounded by a series of objects including, most noticeably, an hourglass and his cardinal's hat on the wall behind him, a huge gourd hanging from the ceiling, and a skull on the window-sill. A small dog and the saint's lion lie on the floor in the foreground.

    Ruskin first catalogued the print in the first catalogue of the Educational Series (1871), where it was no. 109, included in Case VII, "Elementary Zoology. Lions. - Birds. - Serpents". As it was set amongst several drawings of lions, this was evidently due to the lion which fills much of the foreground. It remained in the same position in the second catalogue of the Educational Series (1874), although Ruskin's renumbering of the series meant that its number had changed to 159.

    In the preface to "The Eagle's Nest", Ruskin mentioned the "Saint Jerome" as one of the few plates by Dürer (along with the "Melencolia"; "Saint Eustace"; and "Knight, Death and the Devil", all of which are in the collection) where the depiction of clothed figures meant that Dürer's depiction of the figure was not 'polluted and paralyzed by the study of anatomy' (The Eagle's Nest, preface = XXII.122).

  • Details

    Albrecht Dürer (1471 - 1528) (engraver)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    engraving on laid paper
    242 x 185 mm (sheet); 277 x 211 mm (mount)
    In the print:
    on a plaque on the floor, lower right: 1514 | AD [The 'AD' in Dürer's characteristic monogram]

    On the mount, recto, all in graphite, all recent:
    bottom centre: (3)
    bottom left corner: 42.
    bottom left, just below corner of print: B. 60
    bottom right corner, an indistinct inscription has been struck through with a horizontal line

    On the mount, verso:
    centre, below the middle, in graphite (recent): Ruskin Coll. | Edu. 159
    bottom centre, 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:


    Schoch, Rainer, Mende, Matthias, and Scherbaum, Anna, Albrecht Dürer: das druckgraphische Werk, 3 (Munich/London/New York: Prestel, 2001-2004), no. 70

    Meder, Josef, Dürer-Katalog, ein handbuch über Albrecht Dürers stiche, radierungen, Holzschnitte, deren zustände, ausgaben und wasserzeichen (Wien: Gilhofer & Ranschburg, 1932), no. 59

    Bartsch, Adam von, Le Peintre Graveur, 21 vols (Vienna: J. von Degen, 1803-1821), cat. vol. VII, pp. 76-7, no. 60

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 109

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 159

    Hollstein, F. W. H., German Engravings Etchings and Woodcuts, ca. 1400 - 1700 (Amsterdam: Menno Hertzberger, 1954-), cat. vol. VII, p. 51, no. 59

    Bartsch, Adam von, The Illustrated Bartsch, founding editor Walter L. Strauss, general editor John T. Spike (New York: Abaris Books, 1978-), no. 1001.60

    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. 159

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Eagle's Nest: Ten Lectures on the Relation of Natural Science to Art, Given Before the University of Oxfored, in Lent Term, 1872’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 22


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Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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