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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Drawing of an illuminated initial 'M' and 'C' from a Manuscript of the late Twelfth or early Thirteenth Century anonymous British

  • Ruskin text

    206. Letters of 13th Century. Study from M.S.
  • Curator’s description:


    The initials copied in this drawing are very similar to those found in a manuscript of Walter of Châtillon's "Alexandreis" and Claudian's works, illuminated in England or France c.1200 and now in the Bodleian Library (MS Auct. F. 2. 16), and very probably originate from the same workshop, if not the same hand. They do not, however, copy any of the initials in the manuscript. The 'C' is very similar to the seven-line 'C' on folio 137 of the Bodleian manuscript, and the 'M' to the seven-line 'M's on folios 149 verso and 192 verso. (For the Bodleian manuscript, see Otto Pächt and J.J.G. Alexander, "Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford", vol. 3, "British, Irish, and Icelandic Schools, with Addenda to Volumes 1 and 2", Oxford (Clarendon Press): 1973, no. 299; and R.W. Hunt et al., "The Survival of Ancient Literature: Catalogue of an exhibition of Greek and Latin classical manuscripts, mainly from Oxford libraries ..", Oxford (Bodleian Library): 1975, no. 131.)

  • Details

    anonymous British (Anonymous (British))
    after Anonymous, Continental (Anonymous, Continental)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    bodycolour and gold paint over graphite on card
    109 x 172 mm
    Recto, in graphite:
    top centre: I. D. X.
    towards the top left: 51.
    towards the top right (within the left-hand sketched 'M'): 59

    Verso, in graphite (recent):
    top, left of centre: Assistant (? J. J. Laing) | E 206
    top right: orig. Edu 18 | & I.E. new. | in ink ['I.E. new.' underlined]
    top left, 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:


    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. IX.1.E

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 206

    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. 206

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Educational no. 18


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Ruskin's Catalogues

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