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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Pæstum (Plate from the "Little Liber Studiorum") Turner

  • Ruskin text

    8 D Study of storm-cloud. Engraved by Turner himself, experimentally. E
  • Details

    Turner (Joseph Mallord William Turner) (1775 - 1851) (designer, engraver)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    mezzotint on paper
    191 x 255 mm (plate); 208 x 267 mm (sheet)
    Associated place
    just above centre, the Ruskin School's stamp
    just below, in ink: T. 12.
    bottom, right of centre, in graphite: R 172 Paestum
    just above, in graphite: R 799(d)

    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, ‘Rudimentary Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Rudimentary no. 172

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 294

    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. Rudimentary no. 172 & Educational no. 294

    Rawlinson, W. G., The Engraved Work of J. M. W. Turner, 2 (London: Macmillan, 1908-1913), no. 799

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


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

  • Ruskin's Educational series, 1st ed. (1871)

    8 D Study of storm-cloud. Engraved by Turner himself, experimentally. E
  • Ruskin's Educational series, 2nd ed. (1874)

    294. Study of storm-cloud. Engraved by Turner himself, experimentally. E
  • Ruskin's revision to the Rudimentary series (1878)


    Advanced state of the same subject, never finished; but both superb examples of easy and perfect shading in Mezzotint. Compare the lurid glare blaze of the light here with its translucent calm in 162, and be thankful, first, to Heaven for giving us metal that may be thus engraved, and then to Prince Rupert for finding out how to engrave it, and then to Turner for thus writing upon it so noble scripture. The great Plate engraved by Prince Rupert with his own hand (Reference Series No 110.) should be compared at once with this, to show the range of execution in this material. Few collections can possess so interesting plates; their market-value, great though it is, not at all representing their rarity. The Turner-engravings are worth, at least, fifteen guineas each in any London sale room, and I paid Messr.s. Colnaghi fifty guineas for No. 110.

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