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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A growing Shoot of Box John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text

    Process C. With pencil on white paper washed with neutral tint.Edu. 6. D. Study of box leaves. (This must be lent during the present term to the rudimentary school.)

    The use of the neutral tint (in this study, cobalt and Venetian red) is merely to fill up the white points inevitably left in any but the most finished pencil study; to take off the offensive metallic lustre, and to reinforce the gradations finally. A perfect study in any black material that did not shine would be better; but it would take a week to finish instead of a couple of hours: and the use of the neutral wash is, besides, a good preparation for future brush work.

    Do all you can, first, with an HB pencil in moderate time, (I can do one of these leaf studies myself in a couple of hours; do not spend more than four or five in copying them), then put a thin wash of neutral tint over all except the highest lights: gradating it away to these. Let it dry perfectly, and then reinforce the shadows and define the lines, where necessary, with the same colour: but let the entire power of the drawing depend on the pencil, not the tint.

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    drawing
    Material and technique
    bodycolour and ink over pen and ink and graphite on grey wove paper
    Dimensions
    381 x 264 mm
    Inscription
    Verso:
    towards bottom right, in graphite: E.268
    centre, the Ruskin School's stamp
    Provenance

    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
    1
    Accession no.
    WA.RS.ED.268
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:

    Subjects

  • References in which this object is cited include:

    References

    Ruskin, John, The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, in the Arrangement of 1873, ed. Robert Hewison (London: Lion and Unicorn Press, 1984), p. 208

    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. 268

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 268

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. XI.6.D

    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 235

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Educational no. 32.C

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

  • Ruskin's Catalogue of Examples (1870)

    32 C. Study of young shoot of box. (R.) Pencil, washed with cobalt and light red; outline here and there determined with the pen; buds touched with white—very badly, but, if I had begun to work upon them, the whole must have been more completed.

    I have sketched this rapidly to show you, in 32 B and C, the two uses of grey paper, for form seen in light against dark, and in dark against light, with power of final white in each.

  • Ruskin's Rudimentary series 4th ed. (1872)

    Process C. With pencil on white paper washed with neutral tint.Edu. 6. D. Study of box leaves. (This must be lent during the present term to the rudimentary school.)

    The use of the neutral tint (in this study, cobalt and Venetian red) is merely to fill up the white points inevitably left in any but the most finished pencil study; to take off the offensive metallic lustre, and to reinforce the gradations finally. A perfect study in any black material that did not shine would be better; but it would take a week to finish instead of a couple of hours: and the use of the neutral wash is, besides, a good preparation for future brush work.

    Do all you can, first, with an HB pencil in moderate time, (I can do one of these leaf studies myself in a couple of hours; do not spend more than four or five in copying them), then put a thin wash of neutral tint over all except the highest lights: gradating it away to these. Let it dry perfectly, and then reinforce the shadows and define the lines, where necessary, with the same colour: but let the entire power of the drawing depend on the pencil, not the tint.

  • Ruskin's Rudimentary series, 5th ed. (1873)

    Process C. With pencil on white paper washed with neutral tint.Edu. 6. D. Study of box leaves. (This must be lent during the present term to the rudimentary school.)

    The use of the neutral tint (in this study, cobalt and Venetian red) is merely to fill up the white points inevitably left in any but the most finished pencil study; to take off the offensive metallic lustre, and to reinforce the gradations finally. A perfect study in any black material that did not shine would be better; but it would take a week to finish instead of a couple of hours: and the use of the neutral wash is, besides, a good preparation for future brush work.

    Do all you can, first, with an HB pencil in moderate time, (I can do one of these leaf studies myself in a couple of hours; do not spend more than four or five in copying them), then put a thin wash of neutral tint over all except the highest lights: gradating it away to these. Let it dry perfectly, and then reinforce the shadows and define the lines, where necessary, with the same colour: but let the entire power of the drawing depend on the pencil, not the tint.

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