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

Show search help

Search Help

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.

Reference URL


Send e-mail

Contact us about this object

Send e-mail

Send to a friend

Fleur-de-Lys ('Iris Florentina') John Ruskin

  • Ruskin text

    12. Fleur-de-lys.

    I have myself no doubt, though I would not venture yet to ask you to accept my belief, that the iris, not the violet, is the true ίον of Greece; the ίον of Pindar at the infancy of Iamus is the yellow water-flag; and it is the splendid purple of the dark iris (still an entirely common flower in Greece; ad pagos per totam Græciam frequens, Sibthorp’s Flora Græca, vol. i. plate 40 ) which gives rise to all the expressions respecting the purple of the sea, or of shadows. Note further the relation of Ion himself to the dew, under the rocks of the Acropolis, and to the Earth, throughout the whole drama of Euripides. Triptolemus also, when he is the spirit of Agriculture generally, bears a rod in his hand with the fleur-de-lys for its top; and that Greek form of it is the real origin of the conventional types of the Byzantine, Florentine, and French one. I give it to Cora, therefore, rather than the violet and narcissus: and in its pure white Florentine type, ( the red fleur-de-lys is given, from the tower of Giotto, further on in the series ), it being quite the most lovely expression among plants of the floral power hidden in the grass, and bursting into luxuriance in the spring.

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour over graphite on wove paper
    310 x 206 mm
    Recto, top right, in graphite: Ed 12.

    right, towards bottom, in graphite: Ed 12
    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. 230

    Ruskin, John, The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, in the Arrangement of 1873, ed. Robert Hewison (London: Lion and Unicorn Press, 1984), p. 200

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 8

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 12

    Ruskin, John, ‘Educational Series 1878’, 1878, Oxford, Oxford University Archives, cat. Educational no. 12

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), 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. 12


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

© 2013 University of Oxford - Ashmolean Museum