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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Engraving of John Ruskin's Drawing of the Dryad's Crown: Oak Leaves in Autumn James Charles Armytage

  • Ruskin text

    6 The Dryads’ Crown. Oak leaves in autumn. E
  • Details

    James Charles Armytage (c. 1820 - 1897) (engraver)
    after John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    engraving on wove paper
    169 x 261 mm (sheet)
    Recto, within the image, bottom centre, engraved: 53. The Dryad's Crown.

    along the top edge, in graphite: E. 264 "6. now put present 6 in lower school"
    bottom 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. XI.6

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 264

    Ruskin, John, ‘Rudimentary Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Rudimentary no. 285

    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. 264


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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

    6 The Dryads’ Crown. Oak leaves in autumn. E
  • Ruskin's Educational series, 2nd ed. (1874)

    264. The Dryad’s Crown. Oak leaves in autumn. E
  • Ruskin's revision to the Rudimentary series (1878)

    Edu. 264 285. Dryad’s Crown

    Knowing thus the facts of structure accurately, the student will proceed to learn their value in Composition by choosing Forms for complete study which can be finished at his leisure. Any group of dried leaves, falling into beautiful arrangements, may be carried home from the Autumnal woods and drawn as carefully as we please. This piece of withered oak falls, as is constantly the case, almost exactly into the form of one of the terminal crockets in the Flamboyant Gothic of the French, which was, indeed, studied entirely from the Autumnal foliage of their forests. I have lost the drawing, to my great regret: but this proof of Mr. Armitage’s beautiful engraving does it more than justice, and deserves most honourable place in our Series as an example of English line-work, imitating even the freest touches of body-colour white in my sketch. A more or less characteristic R. example of the forms of architectural ornament, derived from the withered leaves and entangled or fallen branches of the Woods of Picardy, may be seen in the bracket under the statue of the Madonna, and the door-lintel beneath that, in 289.

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