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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Engraving of Turner's "Brignall Church, Yorkshire" Samuel Rawle

  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The River Greta runs through a gorge; a small church and churchyard can be seen on a flat piece of ground beside the river in the middle distance. In the immediate foregound can be seen the tops of a dense tangle of trees; a boy climbs one to retrieve a kite.

    According to Cook & Wedderburn ( XXI.10 n. 2), this engraving 'was the last but one plate in T. D. Whitaker's Richmondshire' - i.e. plate 31 in "The History of Richmondshire, in the North Riding of Yorkshire", 1823. Turner's original drawing was destroyed by a fire whilst in the possession of C.S. Bale.

    The engraving was first catalogued in 1870, when Ruskin listed it as no. 1 in the Standard Series in the "Catalogue of Examples". He placed it there 'as an example of the best English painting and engraving of recent times', able to capture local colour and subtle tones of light - particularly distinguishing between the evening light on the hills, and the light of the moon. He also praised Turner's design, 'among the loveliest of all Turner's local landscapes'. In "Lectures on Landscape" (§§ 100-101 = XXII.69-70), he described the strength symbolised by the boy climbing to retrieve his kite, and the final end indicated by the gravestones in the churchyard. His students were to model themselves upon the boy, rather than those who flew falcons and war-eagles; and to learn to accept death as the final rest.

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    Samuel Rawle (1771 - 1860) (engraver)
    after Turner (Joseph Mallord William Turner) (1775 - 1851)
    Object type
    print
    Material and technique
    engraving on wove paper
    Dimensions
    204 x 285 mm (sheet)
    Associated people
    Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759 - 1821) (publisher, commissioner)
    Associated place
    Inscription
    Recto, all in the border:
    bottom left, engraved: J.M.W. Turner R.A. delt.
    bottom right, engraved: S. Rawle sculpt.
    centre left, in graphite, an indeterminate mark which may be a '3' on its side.

    Verso:
    upper left, in graphite (recent): ST. 1. | for Richmondshire
    to the left of and below centre, the Ruskin School's stamp
    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.STD.001
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:

    Subjects

  • References in which this object is cited include:

    References

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Standard no. 1

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Works of John Ruskin’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912)

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Reference Series Including Temporarily the First Section of the Standard Series (London: Smith, Elder, [1872]), cat. Standard no. 1

    Ruskin, John, ‘Lectures on Art: Delivered Before the University of Oxford in Hilary Term, 1870’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 20

    Ruskin, John, ‘Lectures on Landscape: Delivered at Oxford in Lent Term, 1871’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 22

    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. Standard no. 1

    Ruskin, John, ‘Modern Painters’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 3-7

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

  • Ruskin's Catalogue of Examples (1870)

    1. Brignal banks, on the Greta, near Rokeby.

    Yet sang she, Brignal banks are fair,And Greta woods are green,* * * * * *And you may gather garlands there Would grace a summer queen.

    It is chosen to begin the series, as an example of the best English painting and engraving of recent times. The design is among the loveliest of all Turner’s local landscapes, and the engraving shows the peculiar attainments of recent line work in England; namely, the rendering of local colour and subdued tones of light. The hills are all dark with foliage, and the expression of the fading light of evening upon them is given distinctively, as different from the full light of noon. In the best old engraving, the high lights on the trees would have been white, and the light would have been clear and simple, but not, unless by some conventional arrangement of rays, expressive of any particular hour of the day. I do not mean it to be understood, however, that the English engraving is better, or that its aim is altogether wiser than that of the early school; but only that it has this merit of its own, deserving our acknowledgment. Other reasons for the choice of this subject to begin the series are noted in the first lecture; two chief ones are that the little glen is a perfect type of the loveliest English scenery, touched by imaginative associations; and that the treatment of it by Turner is entirely characteristic both of his own temper throughout life, and of the pensiveness of the great school of chiaroscurists to which he belongs.

  • Ruskin's Standard & Reference series (1872)

    1. Brignal banks, on the Greta, near Rokeby. Engraved from Turner’s drawing in the Yorkshire series .

    It is chosen as an example of the best English painting and engraving of recent times. The design is among the loveliest of all Turner’s local landscapes, and the engraving shows the peculiar attainments of recent line work in England; namely, the rendering of local colour and subdued tones of light. The hills are all dark with foliage, and the expression of the fading light of evening upon them is given distinctively, as different from the full light of noon. In the best old engraving, the high lights on the trees would have been white, and the light would have been clear and simple, but not, unless by some conventional arrangement of rays, expressive of any particular hour of the day. I do not mean it to be understood, however, that the English engraving is better, or that its aim is altogether wiser than that of the early school; but only that it has this merit of its own, deserving our acknowledgment. Other reasons for the choice of this subject to begin the series are noted in the first lecture; two chief ones are that the little glen is a perfect type of the loveliest English scenery, touched by imaginative associations; and that the treatment of it by Turner is entirely characteristic both of his own temper throughout life, and of the pensiveness of the great school of chiaroscurists to which he belongs.

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