The memory of John Ruskin has always been green in Oxford, where both the University's art school and an adult residential college with trades-union links continue to bear his name. Ruskin may never again be the phenomenal intellectual force he was for late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-centuryBritain and the world, but as the centenary of his death in 1900 approaches, some of his ideas seem likely to come into their own. The modern breakdown of barriers between academic disciplines has revealed how central Ruskin is to almost any interdisciplinary study of literary, artistic, and intellectual Victorian England.
In the Ashmolean, Ruskin's wonderful gift of J. M. W. Turner watercolours, made to the University Galleries in 1861, and the carefully arranged collections, rich in Ruskin's own works, presented as part his creation of the Ruskin School of Drawing in the 1870s, have long been among the most widely loved treasures of the Print Room. In Ruskinian tradition, the work of the Print Room is devoted to showing the importance of learning to look.
The very popularity of Ruskin's drawings with visitors has in the past encouraged an approach in which the best Ruskin works were separated from their context, to facilitate public consultation, somewhat at the expense of the historical logic of the teaching collection as a whole. In the 1970s and 1980s, through the work of Gerald Taylor (formerly Senior Assistant Keeper in the Department of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum) and of Robert Hewison, steps were taken to recreate Ruskin's teaching series according to the intellectual and educative scheme underlying them. The present exhibition and book are a further step towards preserving and presenting these extraordinary collections in their historical integrity, and making them permanently accessible to students and the public in the cherished tradition of the Department of Western Art.
The project was initiated by an enlightened and generous grant made by the Guild of St George, which is dedicated to the creative development of Ruskin's life work, to enable Professor Hewison to undertake the research here presented. I am delighted that it was thus made possible for so distinguished a 'Ruskinian' to be a guest curator of the exhibition. The installation of the exhibition itself was made possible by the munificence of the Ruskin Foundation, in association with the Maxim Group. It is a further pleasure that this exhibition will be seen in Sheffield, home of the Guild of St George's Ruskin Gallery, a kind of sister institution, sharing Ruskin as a parent.
On behalf of the Visitors of the Ashmolean, I thank the trustees of the Ruskin