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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Etching of Turner's Drawing of "Rietz, near Saumur" John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text

    51 Etching from Turner’s drawing of the banks of the Loire (in the Oxford Gallery ) . M
  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900) (etcher)
    after Turner (Joseph Mallord William Turner) (1775 - 1851)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    etching on Chine collé
    207 x 289 mm (plate); 298 x 438 mm (support sheet)
    Associated place
    Recto, bottom, right of centre: Wood. to inner edge

    top, towards right, in graphite (recent): numbered on old mount 101 | 51
    just to the right: purple | ink
    just below: Ruskin after Turner E 101
    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. 51

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 101

    Ruskin, John, ‘Educational Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Educational no. 101

    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. 101


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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

    51 Etching from Turner’s drawing of the banks of the Loire (in the Oxford Gallery ) . M
  • Ruskin's Educational series, 2nd ed. (1874)

    101. Etching from Turner’s drawing of the banks of the Loire (in the Oxford Gallery) . M
  • Educational, manuscript (1878)

    Remains 101.

    I may much better this group hereafter, but it is enough at present to explain what I mean. I wish there were another English word for my meaning, but I suppose Sentiment is now classical among us, & its use typically represented by the division of the parties respecting Thirlmere - those who wish to drink it calling themselves the practical party, and calling those who like better to look at it the sentimental party. France will perhaps some day be able to drink the Loire and rejoice in the ability. In the mean time Turner, and such other sentimental persons enjoy looking at it; and Turner with a depth of feeling which makes his Loire series the most touching, and in many respects the most precious, of all his consistently arranged groups of drawings. I etched this one for 'Modern Painters' with extreme care and it is the only etching in the book which satisfied me. I permit myself to place it here, having been permitted by Fate to place the series itself in the University Galleries.

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