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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The Rue Mercière and west Front of Strasbourg Cathedral Destouches

  • Ruskin text

    60. Street in Strasburg


    This modern view is, as you will readily perceive, not given as admirable or exemplary, but as an exponent of opposite qualities. The contrast between Nos. 59 and 60 is partly in the real scenes, partly in the art of their representation. Practical modernism has removed, as an obstacle to traffic, the fountain which gave Prout the means of forming the whole into a good composition; (I saw it in 1835, but forget how long it has been destroyed): and has brightened and varnished the street and the old timbers of it, as best it may, to look like a Parisian boulevard. And poetical modernism exhibits the renovated city with renovated art. Yet, remember, Prout’s delight in the signs of age in building, and our own reverence for it, when our minds are healthy, are partly in mere revulsion from the baseness of our epoch; and we must try to build, some day what shall be venerable, even when it is new.

  • Details

    Destouches (1794 - 1874) (printer)
    Nicolas Marie Joseph Chapuy (1790 - 1858) (designer)
    Léon Auguste Asselineau (1808 - 1889) (lithographer)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    colour lithograph on wove paper
    276 x 202 mm (stone); 449 x 312 mm (sheet)
    Associated people
    F. Sinnett (active 19th century) (publisher)
    Associated place
    top right, in graphite, crossed out: [...]
    just below, in graphite, in a circle, crossed out: 62
    just to the right, in graphite: 60
    centre, 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. 30.F

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 60

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Educational no. 30.B

    Laran, Jean, et al., Bibliothèque Nationale, Département des estampes: Inventaire du fonds français après 1800 (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1939-)

    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. 60


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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