John Ruskin graduated from Oxford in 1842 and returned in 1869 as the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford. From early on in his first term as Slade Professor, Ruskin taught drawing as well as lecturing on art. To support his teaching, Ruskin began assembling the works that were to become his Teaching Collection around Easter 1870, although the Collection’s status was only properly established when Ruskin signed a Deed of Gift to the University on 31 May 1875. Up until it was catalogued by Cook and Wedderburn in 1906, 1470 items passed through the collection, mainly drawings and prints but also including photographs, illuminated manuscripts and one sculpture. Having been transferred from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, the majority of the material is now in the care of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology.
The Elements of Drawing is a searchable and browsable online version of the teaching collection and catalogues assembled by John Ruskin for these Oxford drawing classes. In response to demands from scholars, and to the popularity of Ruskin as demonstrated by the centenary events, it aims to increase accessibility to and improve the utilisation of the Ruskin collection as an exemplary resource. It provides a major digital research archive of considerable interest to art historians, literary scholars, Victorianists, and the general public. The project website allows user to search and browse through Ruskin's different versions of his catalogues of the collection, and to search and browse modern catalogue entries and images for the objects. It is accompanied by framing material summarising the history of the collection, and new commissions based on contemporary artistic interpretations of the database.