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

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

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A male Guianan Toucanet Jacques Barraban

  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The male bird, from Guyana and called 'l'Aracari Koulik' by Le Vaillant, is perched upon a branch. It is probably a Guianan toucanet.

    The print was taken from the small-paper edition of Le Vaillant's illustrated two-volume work on birds of paradise and other tropical birds; it is pl. 13 in vol. II, immediately preceding the accompanying text on pp. 41-42. James Dearden has been unable to find anything other than Ruskin's published references to this book (personal communication, 20 December 2003). In his catalogue entry for the prints, Ruskin wrote that he did not cut up his 'fine-paper copy', and rather used the small-paper edition, because he intended the former 'to be in the student's library'.

    The print was one of a set included in the second section of the ninth cabinet of the Rudimentary Series which, like the Goulds in cabinet eight, were not catalogued infividually: the contents of the cabinet are simply referred to as examples from 'Le Vaillant's work on the Birds of Paradise'. The reasons for this appear in an inscription on no. 223 (in fact a plate a from Nozeman's "Nederlandsche Vogelen"): 'All these plates are only put in temporarily: and un-named; because every bird has half a dozen names, now, and I can't get my catalogue printed, safely, yet, but for drawing practice - they will serve, just now. It is of no use arranging till the frames are all filled'. The numbers allocated to the individual plates in the present catalogue are those inscribed upon them, which presumably reflect their original arrangements in the cabinet.

    The second section of the ninth cabinet included 'Exercises in balanced colour and shade, with perfect form'. Ruskin stated that the prints would 'answer my immediate purpose, of giving exercises in colour, with extreme precision of terminal line'. He thought highly of Le Vaillant's work, describing it as 'Far beyond rivalship [...] its plates, exquisitely engraved, and coloured with unwearying care by hand, are insuperable in plume-texture, hue, and action, - spoiled in effect, unhappily, by the vulgar boughs for sustentation' (Love's Meinie, § 87 = XXV.77-79). Indeed, Ruskin explained in his catalogue that these examples from the smaller edition were 'not justly representative of Le Vaillant's book'.

    It also seems likely that Ruskin included these plates for the same reason as he included the prints from Gould's "British Birds" (nos 195-200 & 225), which he intended to further his students' relationship with birds and their study: 'I believe even these few examples will be greatly useful in exciting the interest of the younger students in ornithology, and especially in the living birds' (Rudimentary Series catalogues, entry for cabinet eight, section two); such study would be morally improving (The Eagle's Nest, §§ 173-199 = XXII.241-244).

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    Jacques Barraban (1767 - 1809)
    Langlois (active c. 1806) (printer)
    Rousset (active c. 1806) (printer)
    Jacques Louis Perée (b. 1769) (engraver)
    Object type
    print
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over line and stipple engraving, and colour line and stipple etching, on paper
    Dimensions
    461 x 323 mm (sheet)
    Inscription
    Recto, top left, in graphite: 13

    Verso:
    bottom right, in graphite: Rud 214
    bottom right, the Ruskin School's stamp

    On a separate piece of paper (30 x 135 mm), recto:
    in graphite: Vol II 13. Levaillant
    top left, in black ink (a different hand): 214

    Verso: R214
    Provenance

    Presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford), 1875; transferred from the Ruskin Drawing School to the Ashmolean Museum, c.1949.

    No. of items
    1
    Accession no.
    WA.RS.RUD.214
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:

    Subjects

  • References in which this object is cited include:

    References

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in Practice of Elementary Drawing, Arranged with Reference to the First Series of Examples in the Drawings Schools of the University of Oxford (n.p., [1872]), cat. Rudimentary no. 214-225

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercise Arranged For the Lower Drawing-School (London: Spottiswoode, 1873), cat. Rudimentary no. 214-225

    Le Vaillant, François, Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis et des Rolliers suivie de celle des Toucans et des Barbus, 2 (Paris: Denné & Perlet, 1806), vol. II, pl. 13

    Ruskin, John, The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, in the Arrangement of 1873, ed. Robert Hewison (London: Lion and Unicorn Press, 1984), cat. Rudimentary no. 214, RUD.214

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercises Arranged for the Lower Drawing-School (London: Smith, Elder, 1872), cat. Rudimentary no. 214-225

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogues, Notes and Instructions’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 21, cat. Rudimentary no. 214-217

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Glossary

stipple engraving

  • stipple engraving

    Technique of tapping the surface of a material with a pointed implement to produce a pattern of tiny dots that builds up to create a picture.

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

  • Ruskin's Rudimentary series, 3rd ed. (1872)

    These examples are from Le Vaillant’s work on the Birds of Paradise , but not catalogued, for the same reason that Mr. Gould’s Birds are not: that I wish the book to be in the student’s library. For which reason, also, I have not cut up my fine-paper copy; and these prints, from the small-paper edition, are not justly representative of Le Vaillant’s book ; but will answer my immediate purpose, of giving exercises in colour, with extreme precision of terminal line. The swallow, from my Dutch book, R|223 , and egret, from Mr. Gould’s , R|225 , are necessary for other particulars, and will remain.

  • Ruskin's Rudimentary series 4th ed. (1872)

    These examples are from Le Vaillant’s work on the Birds of Paradise , but not catalogued, for the same reason that Mr. Gould’s Birds are not: that I wish the book to be in the student’s library. For which reason, also, I have not cut up my fine-paper copy; and these prints, from the small-paper edition, are not justly representative of Le Vaillant’s book ; but will answer my immediate purpose, of giving exercises in colour, with extreme precision of terminal line. The swallow, from my Dutch book, R|223 , and egret, from Mr. Gould’s , R|225 , are necessary for other particulars, and will remain.

  • Ruskin's Rudimentary series, 5th ed. (1873)

    These examples are from Le Vaillant’s work on the Birds of Paradise , but not catalogued, for the same reason that Mr. Gould’s Birds are not: that I wish the book to be in the student’s library. For which reason, also, I have not cut up my fine-paper copy; and these prints, from the small-paper edition, are not justly representative of Le Vaillant’s book ; but will answer my immediate purpose, of giving exercises in colour, with extreme precision of terminal line. The swallow, from my Dutch book, R|223 , and egret, from Mr. Gould’s , R|225 , are necessary for other particulars, and will remain.

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