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, 2nd ed. (1874)

Ruskin's revised catalogue of 300 works for the instruction of undergraduates and his notes on the use of particular examples.

Educational 2 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 Clover Blossoms. Verso: Two rough Studies of Clover Blossoms John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text

    4 B Study of clover blossoms.M
  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    recto: watercolour, bodycolour, and pen and ink, over graphite; verso: pen and ink, on lined blue laid paper with a Britannia watermark
    196 x 155 mm
    top right, in ink: 382
    below the bottom right image, in ink: d

    running right down the page, written out from the left edge, in ink (Ruskin): The smell is as rich as honey | and exactly of ['of' underlined] honey | The head dies from the bottom, the inner | flowers opening into a hollow | cup. the outer ones drooping and getting brown | Th [smudged out] | The white clover is quite different | Quite symmetrical Spiral | a little scale at base of | each stalk forms an exquisite | [r]eceptacle. when half flower | [...] pulled off. a b. line | of le[...]atides [?] of calices | [...] d. much steeper arch | - line of flower bases | Dwell on these [?] exquisite calices | in this | radiating fruition [?]
    top left, in ink: 383
    bottom right, in graphite: Ed.7
    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. 072

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 4.B

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 7

    Ruskin, John, ‘Educational Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Educational no. 7

    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. 7


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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