I’m most familiar with Victorian writer, art critic, draftsman and watercolorist John Ruskin for his critical defense of the fledgling Pre-Raphaelite group of painters, vital at a time when their ideas and approach were at odds with the prevailing values of the Royal Academy and the British art establishment in general.
His defense of their ideals is unsurprising, given that they were largely influenced by his own writing, particularly his elevation of “truth to nature” as a high ideal for artists in the midst of aesthetic philosophy that demanded idealization in artistic interpretations of the world.
That philosophy, and Ruskin himself, first attained prominence with an essay in Modern Painters in 1843 in which he defended the work of J.M.W. Turner.
Ruskin was also the author of a treatise on drawing entitled The Elements of Drawing, that is still relevant and continues to be reprinted and valued today.
Among his other accomplishments, Ruskin was a professor of fine art at University of Oxford, where he established the Ruskin School of Drawing, which continues today as The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art (usually referred to as simply “The Ruskin”).
Also associated with the university is the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, which has placed online a resource titled The Elements of Drawing: John Ruskin’s Teaching Collection at Oxford.
It features digitizations of much of Ruskin’s collection of almost 1500 works that he assembled for use in his school. The collection includes drawings and watercolors by himself and a number of other artists as well as prints and photographs.
The objects listings have pages describing the works (click on “Details” for medium and size), and most are linked to larger versions of the images.
(Images above: top six: John Ruskin, bottom three: Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Samuel Prout, J.M.W. Turner)