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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Evening in Autumn under the Castle of Habsburg John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text

    8 J Evening in autumn under the Castle of Hapsburg. M
  • Curator’s description:


    The view looks down over the ruins of Habsburg Castle and the Aar valley; the Wildegg can be seen in the distance.

    Although Ruskin visited the Castle in May 1858 and made sketches there, Hayman proposes a date of 1863, when Ruskin stayed in Baden for a week and may have made an excursion to Habsburg; he notes that the sweeping view from a high position is similar to drawings made by Ruskin at Mornex at about this time. Cook and Wedderburn and Taylor, however, settle for a date of 1858, the former identifying it with the sketches mentioned by Ruskin in a letter of 28 May to his father (XVI.lxxii).

    The drawing was first catalogued in the Drawing School in 1871, as no. 8 J in Case XII of the Educational Series, which was devoted to 'Rocks, Water, and Clouds'. Although renumbered, as 299, it remained in the same place in the 1874 catalogue of the series.

    In his Cambridge inaugural address, Ruskin described the castle at Habsburg as 'the centre of [Switzerland's] feudal power ... the hawk's nest from which the Swiss Rodolph rose to found the Austrian empire' (§ 16 = XVI.190); lecturing his Oxford students on 3 March 1870, he explained how images of buildings such as the castle could serve as a substitute for images of the great men of history (Lectures on Art, § 115 = XX.106).

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over graphite on wove paper
    218 x 290 mm
    Associated place

    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, ‘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. 299

    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. XVI, pl. IV, f.p. 190

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 299

    Cook, Edward T., Studies in Ruskin: Some Aspects of the Work and Teaching of John Ruskin (Orpington: George Allen, 1890), pl. VIII, f.p. 314

    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 065

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. XII.8.J

    Hayman, John, John Ruskin and Switzerland (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1990), no. 47, p. 62, no. 47, p. 62


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Ruskin's Catalogues

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