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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Recto: Four Studies of Bean-Blossom. Verso: Six Studies of Vine-Blossom John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text


    Calyx and stamens of Bean-blossom (petals removed). Calyx and stamens of Rose Acacia blossom (petals removed), both magnified; and blossom of Agrimony, natural size. (R.) Pen and ink, on common blue-lined writing paper (leaves of my botanical note-book), touched with white.

    You will find this a most wholesome and useful manner of drawing. Take care always to keep leaning well on the firm outline: it is much easier to draw things as the bean-blossom is drawn, than as the agrimony is.

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    pen and ink over graphite, with bodycolour on the verso, on lined blue laid paper
    196 x 158 mm
    Recto, in ink (Ruskin):
    top left: 369
    just below: Bean.
    the four detailed drawings are lettered, top left 'a', top right 'c', bottom left 'a2', bottom right 'b'
    below the upper left drawing: Calyx. Stamens. and pistil.
    bottom, across the page but the first line starting in the centre: The Calyx is 5 sepaled; [sic] in | perspective rudely at b | The stigma seen in profile in a and a2. is | an exquisite white & pure gloss fau ['fau' struck through] fan. c. when | seen frm above

    Verso, in ink, Ruskin:
    top right: 368
    along the top, abov a horizontal line: Gloxinia. account of. M. 29. 1191
    just below the line, right: Vine
    bottom right: Very light appearance | of projecting rib on | upper surface
    bottom 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:


    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 071.i

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. X.3.L

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 238

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Educational no. 33.B

    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. 238


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Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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