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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Print of the Decoration on a Greek Cylix, showing Triptolemus Fourquemin

  • Ruskin text

    126 The Dragon of Triptolemus. ( Le Normand, III. 46 ). E
  • Curator’s description:


    The lithograph shows Triptolemus in his chariot, holding two stems of wheat and staff. The chariot has wings, and two snakes beneath it. It reproduces the decoration of a red-figure cylix in the Museo Gregoriano, Rome. The print was plate XLVI in the third volume of Lenormant and de Witte's "Elite des monuments céramographiques", published in 1858. It was presumably taken from Ruskin's copy of the work now preserved in the Ruskin Library (inventory no. 1996B2621), which is missing many of its plates.

    The print was first catalogued by Ruskin in 1871, when it appeared as no. 126 in the Educational Series, entitled "The Dragon of Triptolemus", placed in Case VIII, "Elementary Zoology". It was framed together with a small sketch by Ruskin of the head of Triptolemus from another Greek ceramic. It remained in the same position, although renumbered as no. 176, in the 1874 catalogue of the series, but does not appear in Ruskin's 1878 reorganisation of the series.

    In his notes on the Educational Series, Ruskin provided a list associating different types of plant with ancient Greek mythological figures. Referring to this frame, he described how the wings on Triptolemus's chariot symbolised the rain.

  • Details

    Fourquemin (active c. 1835 - c. 1861) (printer)
    L. Petit (active c. 1858) (lithographer)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over lithograph on wove paper
    184 mm diameter (stone); 237 x 319 mm (sheet)
    All printed, around of the image:
    top left: T. III.
    top right: PL. XLVI.
    bottom left, faint: Lith de Fourquemin
    bottom right, faint: L. Petit, sc.

    Recto, top right, in graphite: cut circular mount.

    On a separate, rectangular, paper label, in ink: 126. alter position and cut a little square

    On a small, separate paper label, in graphite: 1/76

    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. 126

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 176

    Lenormant, Charles, and Jean de Witte, Elite des monuments céramographiques: Matériaux pour l'histoire des religions et des moeurs de l'antiquité, 4 vols in 8 (Paris: Leleux, 1844-1861), vol. III, pl. XLVI

    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. 176


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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