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

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

Educational, manuscript (1878)

Unpublished manuscript catalogue for proposed re-organisation.

Educational 3 cover

Catalogue / Case I (Nos. 1—25)

    • unidentified - Photograph of Saint John Baptist from Cima's "Virgin and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Paul" R No. 1

      This represents only a portion of a picture now in the Academy of Venice. I wished to have a head of John the Baptist to begin our series, and John the Baptist is the favourite Saint of Cima. Every Italian Painter has a favourite saint, and it seems as if the Saint has made also a favourite of the Painter, and declined to be painted by any body else; so that for everything one must go to a particular Painter. Nobody but Luini can draw a St. Catherine, nobody but Angelico a St. Lawrence, and nobody but Cima a St. John.

    • unidentified - Fragment of an Etching of William Holman Hunt's "The Light of the World" R 2.

      This is not placed here for its actual merit as a work of art, but as representing the first effort made recently in England to found all Art upon Faith, now as heretofore in every School which has true life. This etching shows more clearly than the finished Engraving how flawless and complete the rendering of every detail is in the Picture itself: and the completion of every detail, remember, is required by the Laws of Fésole, as the first condition of sincere art, nor is it E. ever wanting in the work of any great religious Painter. The angular and broken character of the vegetation in this back-ground is, however, a fault necessitated by some points of a resolute character in the Painter, which enabled him to overcome the resistance at first made to the principles on which he laboured, but afterwards was gravely injurious to the design of all his pictures. Perfectly beautiful art can only be produced by the help of Sympathy and with the reward of giving pleasure. Reproach provokes a Painter's faults and want of sympathy freezes his virtues.

    • Ruskin, John - Study of Dawn: the first Scarlet on the Clouds R 3.

      If the last example not for its merit, much less this finds place in the Collection, but as a record of a beautiful fact, such as I have found enough to remind myself of the things I wish most to remember, and as symbolical of the beginning of all rightly Educational work - the rising of the light of Heaven above the Horizon of our life, changing what else had been its clouds into the perfectness of its beauty. I would request any student, who finds by the pleasure he takes in colour that he has the right to hope his time will not be wasted in cultivating E. his gift for it, to set aside a quarter of an hour of every morning, as a part of its devotions, for the observance of the sun-rise, and always to have pencil and colour at hand to make note of anything more than usually beautiful. He will find his thoughts during the rest of the day both calmed and purified, and the advance in all essential art-skill at once facilitated and chastised; quickened by the precision of the exercise, and chastised by the necessity of restraining great part of the field of colour into altogether subdued tones for the sake of parts centrally luminous.

    • Ruskin, John - Study of Dawn: white Clouds R 4.

      Another study of Dawn - one of the most beautiful groups of cloud I ever saw - the drawing placed here only to shew how little we must be some times content. Yet I only wish I had had time, since I was old, or since when I was young, to do as I have now bidden my pupils, and could shew a sketch like this of every group of morning-clouds which have cheered or comforted me, and then left me ashamed - taking to myself the message about the goodness of Ephraim. Hos:vi.4. (E.P.B.)

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    • Ruskin, John - Study of Dawn: purple Clouds R 5.

      I hope some day to put a better Study in the place of this, which is quite faultful in its warm colours: but it is good in those of the open sky and a useful example of Method in execution

    • Ruskin, John - Study of a few Blades of Grass as they Grew R 6.

      The first drawing I ever made faithfully of Grass - that is to say, of a few blades outmost of a cluster in full Spring-time. They are better drawn, as far as regards outline and accuracy of curve, than I could draw them now; for Youth has its own powers, and it will be well for the world when we understand that these, rightly trained, are the most sacred of the whole life - the best of our faculties afterwards being more or less broken and sullied. The earliest drawings of every great painter contain, as notably those of Raphael, the germ of his finest work, and it is well if the finer work be not partly frost bitten.

    • Ruskin, John - Recto: Four Studies of Clover Blossoms R 7.

      These four Studies are an excellent example of the statement I have just made. They are sketches at least twenty years later than the last example; E. and the foreshortening of the three leaves in the upper one on the left, and the drawing of the filaments in the one below it, are much beyond the last example in general power, but the whole thing is, more or less a blunder disgraced by hurry and broken off by discouragement.

    • 8.

      In this Study the old man returns to the simplicity of the Youth. I made this sheet of drawings in 1875, lying among the geranium-leaves in 'Malham Cove' . I like them all very much and the student will do well to copy all of them but the large Coltsfoot leaf on the left, drawn when I was tired; noticing that wherever the outline is broken or hesitating there is fault, but here praiseworthy fault in that it comes of effort to be scrupulously right. Nothing is more difficult than to say how far such conscientiousness should be allowed to trouble us; but, assuredly, sometimes the drawing should be connected, at whatever cost of raggedness in outline, till the form is as true as we can get, and at other times the outline should be drawn decisively, whether the form be quite right or not. Only LeonardoE. or Durer can always be decisive and always right.

    • Ruskin, John - Laurel Leaf, seen Underneath and in Profile ? R 9.

      Original drawing of the first light and shade plate in 'Proserpina' . I have trusted too much to Mr Allen's skill in completing it, but I hope the book will eventually be of sufficient importance to make this first Study for it interesting; and, as an example of Method in drawing leaves, its proper place is here.

    • Ruskin, John - Under-surface of a dried Spray  of Olive, gathered at Verona R 10.

      I am ashamed to give so many Drawings of my own, but I cannot find Studies by any other Draughtsman which unite the absolute fidelity to Natural Form, which I require from the Landscape student, with the Florentine Methods of outline. But also the very imperfections of these Drawings renders them, I think, a little more helpful as examples. If I could put a Study by Leonardo here, instead of this, though I fain would do so, the exquisiteness of his Shadow would make every student of good feeling so disgusted with his own work that he could scarcely proceed with it. It will be much better for him to advance less deE. spondently till he has learned to be disgusted with mine. Observe, also, that the method of this Study is, more or less, elementary. The outline is first made with the lead and then corrected and secured with the pen; so that the student following it may modify his lead-drawing till he is satisfied, and then pronounce the outline he has chosen. By Leonardo only one line would be drawn with his chalk or silver point, and in copying it, once missed it is missed for ever.

    • R 11.

      This is nearly as well done as needs be, and should be copied by every student as an Example of Water-colour sketching; the gradations of the dark lower leaf being specially attended to, and the outline of the leaf on the right. It is an absolute rendering of the facts of growth in the little plant, which are so perfectly symmetrical, and, in the good sense of the word, artful, that we cannot wonder its leaf should have been accepted as the type of consummate ornament in the Royal Crowns of Christendom.

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    • Ruskin, John - Fleur-de-Lys ('Iris Florentina') R 12.

      I place the Fleur-de-Lis next the Strawberry that the student may compare the triple disposition of Form which gave to both plants, being coupled with the utmost exquisiteness in detail, their royal authority over the human mind. I have also painted this flower as well as I could, and the student will find great good in copying it without too laborious effort. Let him, however, take extreme care to get the perspective of the divisions of the left-hand sepal.

    • Ruskin, John - Snake's-Head Fritillary R 13.

      The Oxford lily; also painted as well as I can. When a Study is said to be well-painted, the student must remember that Colour is always the principal object in it. By comparing the grass-blades (for we may so call them) which are glorified by their depression into this purple bell, with the simple grass of the 6th study , the student will at once see the difference between a study made for what Artists call 'Drawing' and one made for Colour. There is nothing in the outline of No.13. which is not ut terly blundering and clumsy compared to the point work in No. 6; but the gradations of warm and cold colour and their minglings with shade, as for instance where the stalk expands into the bell, require far more general skill and attention than the mere guidance of the lead-point in the area of work.

    • Working series (2) 23 14.

      The Greek Fleur-de-Lis - the 'Violet' of the Poets. It is an exquisite little Iris, never using much more than six inches from the ground, opening only in the morning and closing gradually as the sun descends. It is quite supreme in every quality of purple and violet colour, precisely matching, when full-blown, the colour of the Sicilian sea in sunshine. I felt it quite impossible to paint the open flower, but this study feebly renders the beauty of its bud.

    • Ruskin, John - Three Studies of Narcissus ('Field Narcissus of the Alps') 25 15.

      The Greek Narcissus, wild in all pastures of the mountain-land in Greece, Italy & Switzerland. The upper study of it is painted as carefully as I could, determining the outline only with one wash of brown, and this Drawing should be copied by all students.

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    • Ruskin, John - Sketch of a Wood Anemone 16.

      The wood-anemone, showing its relation to its triangular leaf. Beneath, a little study of fruit and leaf, by Miss Dundas; which I place here as entirely standard. It is perfectly easy and perfectly complete, and in qualities of actual realisation, without reference to those of design, neither Durer nor any one else could do much better.

    • Ruskin, John - Asphodel ('Wild Hyacinth of Jura') Now 23 17.

      The Hyacinth of Jura. I like this name for it better than the ordinary botanical one Comosus, which it would be disagreeable to translate into Hairy Hyacinth; and the extreme commonness of the plant on the lower slopes of Jura limestone may, I think, sufficiently justify the adopted name. It is a rapid study; but, I think, successful in the various colour of the lower bells, and excellent for practising in quick work.

    • [The remainder of the Drawings in this Cabinetare temporarily placed here. I hope eventually tocomplete it with chosen examples of FlowerPainting by perfect masters.]

    • Ruskin, John - Quick Sketch of a Strawberry Leaf 18.

      18 is to have the strawbery leaf 24 put into it.

      Then - 19-24 to be emptied & 25 has the rose.

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    • unidentified - The Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) (from the Floræ Danicæ) 25.

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