News item from 2011

Study of a Kingfisher, with dominant Reference to Colour

The Ashmolean launches a major new online teaching resource

On Friday 3 June, the Ashmolean, the world’s leading university museum, will launch The Elements of Drawing - John Ruskin's Teaching Collection.

With support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), this new website has been created jointly by the Ashmolean and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford, and designed by Keep Thinking. It has digitized Ruskin’s extensive collections of drawings, manuscripts and photographs, kept at the Ashmolean, with high quality ‘zoomable’ photography, and unites the images with Ruskin’s original catalogue, comments and instructions to students.

John Ruskin (1819–1900), one of the lions of modern art, is a key figure in the development of artistic teaching and practice. He was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford and established his Drawing School in 1871. His thought and writing on art and architecture reached far beyond academic and artistic circles. In putting together his teaching collections, his aim was to provide a resource for ordinary men and women, who “might see greater beauties than they had hitherto seen in nature and in art, and thereby gain more pleasure in life”. With this in mind, he collected some 1470 works for students to use as examples on his course. They included his own drawings and those by other artists such as JMW Turner, prints, and photographs, assembled over some 15 years during his extensive travels in Italy and Europe. They were arranged in series and placed in special cabinets – which are now available for the first time as an online digital collection. Since 1949, the collections have been housed in the Ashmolean Print Room.

The Elements of Drawing website is an invaluable new archive for the study of art theory, art history and the development of modern art, and for the study of John Ruskin himself. The website provides a virtual recreation of Ruskin’s original arrangement of the collection, which was lost when the works were dispersed in the 20th-century. The works themselves are now cross-referenced with Ruskin’s original notes and instructions, providing a fascinating insight into Ruskin’s thoughts and methods.

With superb, user-friendly design, and high quality digital photography, the Elements of Drawing website aims, as Ruskin did, to make the collection available to the widest possible audience. Users can browse through highlights or search for specific works. A learning section contains ideas for using the website and collection, and includes a video drawing course delivered by painter and former Master of the Ruskin School, Stephen Farthing RA. In Collection Trails, academics and other writers select objects from the collection and provide background information on a variety of themes. The Ruskin Now section contains modern reinterpretations of the collection.

Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean says, “The Museum is extremely grateful to the AHRC for their generous support of this important project. The Elements of Drawing website provides a fantastic new resource for scholars, artists and the general public. It marks a further stage, following the launch of Eastern Art Online in February last year, in the Ashmolean’s ongoing project to publish online collections using the highest possible quality of design, photography and evolving digital technology.”

Study Day: Ruskin Collections, Past and Future, Friday 3 June 10 – 5.45pm
To mark the launch of the new website "The Elements of Drawing" the Ashmolean Museum is holding a free study day on "Ruskin Collections, Past and Future" on Friday 3 June, 10.00am -5.45pm at the Taylorian Institute, Oxford. Admission is free. To reserve a free place email  or call 01865 288181

European prints and drawings at the Ashmolean
The Ashmolean’s Western Art Print Room houses one of the finest collections of European prints and drawings in Britain. It includes approximately 25,000 drawings and 250,000 prints from the fifteenth century to the present day. It is open to members of the public, students and visiting scholars alike, for the study and enjoyment of the collections. Amongst the highlights are the world’s finest group of drawings by Raphael; works on paper by Rembrandt, Dürer, Guercino, Watteau and Cézanne; English drawings and watercolours by JMW Turner, Samuel Palmer and John Ruskin; and the Pissarro family archive. For more information please visit  

The Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford
The Ruskin, as it is known, is the Fine Art Department of the University of Oxford. It puts together cutting edge contemporary artists and art theorists with some of the brightest and most creative art students. The subject is taught as a living element of contemporary culture with a broad range of historical and theoretical references. As well as a flourishing undergraduate programme, it also has a large number of DPhil students carrying out both practice-led and theory-based doctoral research. For more information, please visit:

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes hundreds of research awards ranging from individual fellowships to major collaborative projects as well as over 1,100 studentship awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

Keepthinking Digital Design
Keepthinking, based in London, are a design, information architecture and software consultancy, who conceive and develop beautiful, sustainable, usable and accessible applications for the web and every other medium of the digital age. In February 2010 Keepthinking and the Ashmolean Museum launched the new Eastern Art Online: Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art website. Other projects have included websites, kiosks, mobile applications, content and collection management systems for The British Council, the Wedgwood Museum, The National Galleries of Scotland and the Horniman Museum
among others. For more information please visit:


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