The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

Ruskin's revision to the Rudimentary series (1878)

Unpublished manuscript catalogue for proposed re-organisation of the Rudimentary series.

Rudimentary manu Cover

Catalogue / 5th Cabinet / 1st Section

  • 101.

    The series, to which this photograph is the introduction, represents the best work of the reviving classical spirit in Europe, and I R. introduce it, therefore, by this representation of one of the noblest buildings of the classic school which the later Italians sought to restore, and which, recommended by their consummate art, has so continued to this hour that the arcades of Pall Mall are nothing more than effeminate reminiscences of those of the Coliseum.

  • Perini, Antonio - Photograph of the Loggia del Consiglio, Verona remains 102.

    I oppose instantly to the mass of the Coliseumthe most perfect work I know of the delicatest architecture derived from it, combining the most exquisite materials in marble and metal with elaborate fresco-painting. This building of Fra Giocondo cannot be surpassed in fineness of proportion or in delicate application of local colour. A portion of the facade drawn by M.r. Bunney is placed among our working drawings, but, though finished with extreme care, gives only a feeble idea of the beauty of its colour, which by my request was only represented as it is, that is to say, in a much faded condition. The original tone of it may be sufficiently imagined from the next example.

  • R.
  • Gruner, Wilhelm Heinrich Ludwig, after Friedrich Lose - Engraving of the Plan and Elevation of the westernmost Bay on the south Wall of the Lay Hall of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan remains 103.

    One of Gruner’s engravings very admirably representing, as far as stamped colour and engraving can, one of the compartments of the church at Milan containing Luini’s frescoes , of which the St. Catherine in the alcove was chosen as a leading example. The decorations in the rest of the church are all of the finest time and perfectly represent to the student what painters like Luini, Carpaccio, and Perugino thought beautiful in building, condescending also themselves, like their great ancestors Cimabue and Giotto, frequently to execute the most subordinate details with their own hands. There is no saying what such architecture might have become had Italy persevered in the Christian faith. Its actual beauty was greatly interfered with by the impossibility of finding pupils good enough to work with the great masters, and such pupils could only have been supplied by a permanently disciplined & monastic school. Actually uneducated and infidel workmen were more and more admitted in the completion of the subordinate parts and the redundance of ornament became instantly vulgar when produced by sensual mechanism instead of religious R. enthusiasm. The main point which students have now to observe is that they need not pretend to imitate the Italian Renaissance until the best painters in the Academy are content to work on house-walls.

  • Gutensohn, Johann Gotfried, and Joseph Thurmer - Engraved Elevation of the north-western Wall and Vaults of the Loggia of the Villa Madama 104.

    A still richer example of the school, exquisitely delightful in its floral patterns. Every student of decorative art is to copy the mouldings on the right hand side of the door with pen and Indian ink, touching with colour. If his eye and hand are not fine enough to enjoy doing this he never will make a good painter. It is because minute work of this kind was despised by our later English School that even our men of greatest genius never were able to produce a standard classic work.

  • Gutensohn, Johann Gotfried, and Joseph Thurmer - Engraving of the Ceiling of the north-east Vault of the Loggia of the Villa Madama 105.

    The richest possible condition of this decorative school, indicating the time when the pleasure of their newly invented style, and the superb power of the captains of it, Perugino, Raphael, and Correggio led the entire mind of Italy to conceive pleasure to be the only end of art. Therefore, finding it more pleasurable to contemplate nymphs R. and satyrs than saints and patriarchs, she fills her picture panels with these more attractive subjects, and from that day she and her arts perished together. The floral decoration in this example is still exquisitely beautiful but its larger paintings base, and the tone of colour gradually becoming violent & vulgar. The oval nearest the white rosettes, however, of Achilles seizing the sword, must be a pretty realization of the subject.

  • Carlo Naya (Firm) - Photograph of Carpaccio's "Arrival of the English Ambassadors" from the "Legend of Saint Ursula" 106.

    Given as a perfect example of the manner of painting associated with this kind of architecture. The picture is variously illustrated in my writings on Carpaccio, but will be better understood by comparing the next example.

  • Carlo Naya (Firm) - Photograph of the Centre of Carpaccio's "Arrival of the English Ambassadors" from the "Legend of Saint Ursula" remains 107.

    The central portion of the above-mentioned picture exquisitely photographed. The fine principal figures on the right cannot be surpassed in Italian work for realistic portraiture. The face of the king seems to me a very curious ideal for the father of St. Ursula, but probably Carpaccio knew more of physiognomy than I do. The R. embroidered tapestry behind the figures is in the real painting quite one of the most wonderful pieces of showering jewellery that I have ever seen produced by art. It will be noticed that the light of it, a little concentrated above the king’s crown, makes him more principal. The square tablet above the nearer figure is to the composition of this part of the picture exactly what Prout’s horse-shoe is to the whole of the house (No. 85.) Students who have gone through the exercises ordered upon No. 104. will have pleasure in looking at the little weeds which are used for symmetrical floral decoration at the bottom of the picture.

  • 108.

    Representing another phase of the figure-art associated with this architecture. The capitals of the arcade, & the arabesque above it, are to be compared with the pillars & arabesques of Fra Giocondo in No. 102, and the disposition of the leafage about the waists of Adam and Eve in the distance will show how completely even the most religious artists had adopted the principle of decoration to govern their work. The photograph is put here merely to shew these points of general interest. Angelico never photographs well. The angels’ R. hair, which is here dark, is in the original light brown, and the face of the Madonna has evidently been entirely repainted on the negative of the photograph. The general tone of Angelico’s work, of which I shall have often to speak, may be sufficiently seen in the next example.

  • remains 109.

    Studies of two angels, attendant on the Madonna, in a picture of Angelico’s in the Museum of Perugia; a picture which with two or three others in the same room may be ranked among the least injured and most precious works of this painter in Italy. In water-colour I could neither get the luminous complexion of the nearer angel, nor the vigour of the dark spots on his wings, which are relieved in the original work against the golden back-ground equally inimitable by my yellow stain: but the general effect of the whole is redproduced at least more faithfully than by the photograph.

  • unidentified - Photograph of Velázquez's "Portrait of Isabel of Bourbon on Horseback" 110.

    In passing from Angelico to Velasquez we have the complete range of Renaissance art. It will however be seen, by referring to No. 107. that VeR. lasquez is in reality only Carpaccio less crowded, and with a little of the disorder of modernism, or naturalism if we like to call it so, disguising the really monumental and elaborate construction of the picture. The patterns of the Queen’s dress are throughout as formal and as rich as those of the equestrian statue of Colleone & the nonsense which has been talked by modern artists about elaboration of detail may be heard in future with contemptuous silence by the student who has once drawn the beautiful cinque cento pattern of her horsehousings, which, therefore, after doing the pen-exercise on No. 104. the student of decorative art must proceed to do; and at all events one cluster of it is to be drawn in sepia by every student, that they may understand, first, the way in which a great artist does his detail, and; secondly, the mode in which the lustre of flowers seen against shade may be preserved without losing their sgradation. A bit of the fringe of these housings and of the beaded hem of the queen’s mantle should also be drawn and compared with Carpaccio’s similar work.

  • 111.

    Another portrait of the same class exhibiting the R. same qualities even in a more marked degree, but representing the face of the rider with better success and therefore making it conquer, as it should, horse and drapery and all. Both these pictures are among the consummate art-masterpieces of the world and, considered as pieces of art only, the works of Velasquez are the only consummate pieces in the world. All other masters are strong in one faculty and weak in another, or else they sink from excellence in defending themselves from error. To Velasquez only it is given to be various without foible and irreproachable without fear.

  • unidentified - Photograph of Velázquez's "Portrait of Doña Mariana of Austria at Prayer" 112.

    Of so great an artist I willingly multiply examples, but the treatment of the patterned drapery in this one completes our series by demonstrating the care taken even in his most rapid execution. Most of the leaves and flowers on this damask are drawn with a single sweep of his pencil, but always with instantaneous grace.

  • unidentified - Photograph of Velázquez's "Aesop" 113.

    We close our study of the xv century by a perfect example of that familiar portraiture which the splendour of its art made interesting; thereby R. properly founding the modern school of low life. Everything that the Dutch, the French and the English have done best in this kind is here anticipated and eclipsed by Velasquez.

© 2013 University of Oxford - Ashmolean Museum