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John Ruskin’s drawings

This year is of course a huge anniversary for the College, what with us celebrating 775 years of Univ. But 2024 also marks 225 years since the birth of artist and critic John Ruskin. Ruskin was closely associated with Oxford during his life; he was an undergraduate at Christ Church from 1836 – 1842 and, 27 years after graduating, was appointed as the first Slade Professor of Fine Art in 1869.  Many buildings in the city still bear his name. One such is the Ruskin School of Art, Univ’s neighbour on the High Street since 1975.

Univ has no direct relationship with Ruskin, but amongst the College’s treasures we have two rather special examples of the artist’s work. These are two sketches, presented to the College in 1932, that the artist produced as a young man; one made before he matriculated and the other before he had graduated. Curiously, the College has never made much hullabaloo about us having these pictures, despite their rarity and attractiveness. While they had previously hung in the former Academic Office, they have, for a number of years now, been kept out of public view in our Archive. We hope this Treasure will bring some renewed attention to these very charming pictures.

We will answer the question of how these sketches came to Univ later in this Treasure.


Sadler's note

Pass of St. Gothard

Dover from the Sea

Inventory p. 57



Pass of St. Gotgard by John Ruskin, 1835.

Dover by the sea by John Ruskin, 1840.

University College Record, 1932-33.

Inventory of Chattels, University College, 1943.

John Batchelor, John Ruskin : No Wealth but Life : A Biography (London, 2001).

Robert Hewison, John Ruskin (Oxford, 2007).

John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin, eds. Edward Tyas Cook and Alexander D. O. Wedderburn (1903-1912).

Michael Sadleir, Michael Ernest Sadler, Sir Michael Sadler K.C.S.I., 1861-1943 : A Memoir by His Son (London, 1949).

William Smart and J. A. Hobson, John Ruskin, His Life and Work ; and, John Ruskin, Social Reformer (London, 1994).

Further selected Univ Treasures are detailed below or explore the whole collection on our News and Features Treasures pages.

Published: 4 June 2024

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