Rupert Shepherd introduces Ruskin's teaching collection and explains its structure.
This section gives an overview of the Educational Series, displaying one work from each of its twelve cabinets.
I. Introductory Subjects, and Exercises in Flower Drawing
Ruskin described this as well-painted, although the outline was ‘utterly blundering and clumsy’. He called it Field Lily of Oxford … Alfred’s Dew-flower, thereby including it amongst the group of plants he called Drosidae (dew-flowers), which included asphodels, amaryllises, lilies, irises and rushes, and which were ‘the origin of the loveliest forms of ornamental design’.
II. Elementary Illustrations of Greek design
A drawing of the caryatid now in the British Museum, this accompanied a series of engravings of the Erechtheion and Pandroseion taken from ‘Athenian’ Stuart’s Athens.
III. Illustrations of Northern Gothic, with its resultant Art
Two views of the chantry chapel of St Mary the Virgin. Ruskin described the chapel as ‘characteristic English Gothic, when it separated itself from German and French’. He praised Prout’s humble genius, abilities as a draughtsman, and sense of magnitude.
IV. Illustrations of Italian Gothic, with its resultant Art
The Loggia, attributed to Fra Giocondo, was erected in 1493. Ruskin called it ‘the most beautiful Renaissance design in North Italy’, but lamented its brutal restoration shortly after this picture was taken.
V. Elementary Illustrations of Landscape
Thinking this print was an engraving rather than an etching, Ruskin remarked upon the ‘peculiar execution with blunt line’, although round ends to the lines are entirely characteristic of etchings. He praised the precision and economy of the depiction of the head of the soldier drawing his sword.
VI. Advanced Illustrations of Landscape
A plate from Turner’s Liber studiorum, mezzotinted by Say over Turner’s etched design. According to Ruskin, Turner had, by rejecting the beauty of incidental detail, captured ‘the spirit of Scotland’.
VII. Elementary Zoology. Lions—Birds—Serpents
Ruskin cut up several of his illustrated books and manuscripts for the Collection. These are plates from Lenormant and De Witte’s Elite des monuments céramographiques and Rosellini’s Monumenti dell’ Egitto e della Nubia. Ruskin entitled them Lions and Gryphons, as solar powers.
VIII. Elementary Zoology (continued)
‘Birds’-nest Hunt’ was famous for his small, highly-detailed still lives. This was originally one half of a larger drawing, which Ruskin cut in two. Of Hunt’s work, he said that he knew ‘of no other pieces of art, in modern days, at once so sincere and so accomplished’.
IX. Illustrations of the Connection between Decorative and Realistic Design
Ruskin has left the lines of the perspective construction which he used to draw the dishes and bowl accurately. Despite the many labels he added to the drawings, we have no written record of how he actually used them.
X. Illustrations of Etching, Engraving, and Outline Drawing
Ruskin compared the wing on the left, cut from Dürer’s engraving of Nemesis, to that on the right, enlarged about eight times from a Rembrandt etching: Dürer went ‘as far as art has yet reached in delineation of plumage’, whilst the Rembrandt was ‘an example of every kind of badness’.
Ruskin displayed this drawing when lecturing on sculpture at Oxford in 1870, describing it as the kind of natural form which contemporary sculptors should be able to draw.
XII. Rocks, Water, and Clouds
A view of fleeting atmospheric effects in Ruskin’s beloved Alps, taken from the Pointe d’Andey above Bonneville, close to Mornex, where he spent most of the autumn of 1862.