• The Matterhorn from the North-east, Switzerland -
    Price on request

    Signed with initials and inscribed lower centre: State of snow on Matterhorn in 1849. {J.R, on the spot, Aug. 2nd}/Sketch never completed; but if I cut the margin away, I should make the angles false, inscribed lower left: Matterhorn. 2nd August. P. 163. I and numbered 3 upper right

    Watercolour over pencil

    24.2 by 33.7 cm., 9 ½ by 13 ¼ in.

     

    Provenance:

    Given by Ruskin to his Drawing School Collection at Oxford but taken back by him in 1887;

    W.H. Willink by 1912;                                                  

    Anonymous sale, Christie's, 26th September 2007, lot 243, where bought by the present owner

     

    Literature:

    E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), The Works of John Ruskin, 1903-1912: vol.5, 1904 (Modern Painters, vol.3), p.xxvii; vol. 6, 1904 (Modern Painters, vol. 4), pl.38 (right) and pp.283 and 288; vol. 21, 1906 (The Ruskin Collection at Oxford), p.278, no. 119; and vol. 38, 1912, (Catalogue of Ruskin's Drawings), p.267, no. 1121;

    E.T. Cook, The Life of John Ruskin, 1911, vol. I, p.250;

    Joan Evans and John Howard Whitehorse (eds.), The Diaries of John Ruskin 1848-1873, 1958, p.416, note 2.

     

    Exhibited:

    Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Sublime Inspiration: The Art of Mountains from Turner to Hillary, 1997, ex-catalogue

     

    Engraved:

    By J.C. Armytage for Modern Painters, 1856, vol. 4, pl. 38

     

    Joan Evans and John Howard Whitehorse (eds), The Diaries of John Ruskin 1848-1873, Oxford, 1958, p.416, note 2, where the drawing is incorrectly identified as 'probably' no.1118 in Cook and Wedderburn's catalogue of Ruskin's drawings.

     

    Ruskin first saw the Alps at the age of 14 in 1833. He returned many times including 1835, 1842, 1844, 1845, 1846 and 1849 when the present drawing was executed.

     

    Ruskin’s Swiss Tour of 1849, was intended partly as a rest from his recent undertaking, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, which had been published in May and partly at preparation for further work on his Modern Painters. He arrived at Zermatt on 2 August and remained for a week before returning to Chamonix. The present drawing, was made that first day. Ruskin recorded in his diary: 'A lovely day with sharp north wind. Drawing Matterhorn. Then up to a bed of overhanging rocks which I thought were marble, but found to be a pure and lovely quartz rock in thin folia.' He wrote in more detail to his father, who had remained in Geneva, ‘I had glorious weather, and on Friday… I got up to a promontory projecting from the foot of the Matterhorn and lay on the rocks and drew it at my ease. I was about three hours at work, as quietly as if in my study at Denmkar Hill, though on a peak of barrey crag above a glacier and at least 9000 feet above sea’. (Cook and Wedderburn, op. cit.)

     

    On 9 August, just before leaving, Ruskin made another study of the mountain, but taken from a different angle, from further east from the moat of the Riffelhorn. (now in the Guild of St George at Sheffield) . A third drawing from the same trip is now in the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard.

     

    Ruskin made detailed descriptions and drawings of the Alps, including of the Matterhorn in Volume IV of Modern Painters, which he sub-titled ‘Of Mountain Beauty’. He not only drew the mountain, but also took a number of photographs in order to check the accuracy of his studies He describes the ‘Matterhorn or Mount Vervin [standing] on the whole unrivalled among the Alps, being terminated on two of its sides, by precipices which produce on the imagination nearly the effect of verticality’ (Cook and Wedderburn, op. cit, p. 283). The first successful ascent of the Matterhorn did not take place until July 1865, despite various attempts, and Ruskin’s detailed drawings and photographs were intended to help the artist and the viewer fully understand the intrinsic nature and form of the mountain. The present drawing, along with the version in the Guild of St George, formed two halves of plate 38, in Modern Painters, which was engraved by J. C. Armytage, an engraver who Ruskin particularly favoured.

     

    Ruskin was fascinated by the effects of perspective on mountains and particularly on the Matterhorn, recording, 'No mountain in the Alps produces a more vigorous impression of peakedness than the Matterhorn. In Professor Forbes's work on the Alps, it is spoken of as an "obelisk" of rock... Naturally … we assume the mass to be a peak. However, Ruskin goes on to explain that the line we assume to be the steep slope of its side, is in fact ‘a perspective line. It is in reality perfectly horizontal…more or less irregular and broken, but so

    nearly horizontal that, after some prolonged examination of the data [he has] collected about the Matterhorn, [he is] at this moment in doubt which is its top. (Cook and Wedderburn, op. cit, p. 224).

     

    Despite the scientific nature of Ruskin’s study and his desire to capture the ‘peakedness’ of the Matterhorn, the romantic nature of the subject with its awe-inspiring dominance of its surroundings clearly captivated the artist.

  • The Ponte Vecchio, Florence -
    Price on request

    Signed lower right: JRuskin, inscribed lower left: Ponte Vecchio and lower right: B. 16.

    Pencil

    17.9 by 11.4 cm., 7 by 4 ½ in.

     

    Provenance:

    Given by the artist to Joan Ruskin Severn (1846-1924);

    Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, 12th July 1984, lot 45;

    Private Collection since 2007

     

    Ruskin first visited Florence in 1870, the same year that he established the Oxford Drawing school. He returned in 1872 with the intention of drawing the Baptistery in connection with a series of lectures on architecture that he was giving at Oxford. Ruskin believed that the Baptistery was of crucial significance for the history of Christian architecture and painting.

    He returned a further twice to the city in 1874 and finally again in 1882, accompanied by William Gershom Collingwood. The two stayed at the Hotel Grand Bretagne near the Ponte Vecchio and the bridge and its environs formed the subject of several sketches by the artist.

     

    During the early 1880s, Ruskin began work on a series of drawings which were to illustrate a proposed 9 volume history of Christianity. The first part, the Bible of Amiens was published in 1880 and he intended that one of the other volumes should be titled Ponte Vecchio.

     

    The current bridge was built in 1345, following a flood, which destroyed the old bridge. There have been shops on the bridge since it was built, although from the end of the 16th century only jewellers and goldsmiths were allowed to use these.

     

    This drawing belonged to Joan Severn, Ruskin’s cousin who married the artist Joseph Severn (1793-1879) and who nursed Ruskin in his old age at Brantwood.

  • The West Towers of Laon Cathedral, France -
    Price on request

    Signed with initials lower right

    Watercolour over pencil heightened with white on buff paper

    20 by 12.4 cm., 7 ¾ by 4 ¾ in.

     

    Provenance:

    With Andrew Wyld, 2011, where bought by the present owner

     

    Literature:

    Andrew Wyld (W.S. Fine Art), exhibition catalogue, Summer 2011, no. 42, pp.86-87, ill.

     

    The present drawing is one of a small group of surviving pages from a small sketchbook that Ruskin used during his ten-month tour of France and Italy between September 1840 and end of June 1841. Undertaken on the advice of his doctor, to recover from a bout of ill health, Ruskin travelled with his parents and his cousin Mary Richardson. The party stopped in Laon on 21st June during the last few days of their tour.

     

    Laon lies in the north-east of France, between Reims and Amiens and although Ruskin described the town as a ‘pretty old-fashioned French place’, they had not initially intended to stop there. Ruskin was particularly captivated by the cathedral and especially by the sculpture over the doors and the abundance of slender columns, which characterise both the interior and the exterior towers.  Ruskin returned to Laon many years later, accompanied by William Collingwood in August 1882.  

     

    Laon Cathedral was built between 1160 and 1230. It was damaged during the French Revolution, but at the time of Ruskin’s visit, the cathedral had recently been declared an Historic Monument and a programme of restoration planned. The restoration began in 1846 and was not completed until shortly before the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Luckily the cathedral remained undamaged by the War.

     

    Before setting out on his journey, Ruskin approached various leading artists who he admired, including Peter de Wint, David Roberts, James Duffield Harding and J.M.W. Turner for advice as to what drawing materials he should take with him and most appropriate techniques to employ. Turner advised him to vary his technique depending on the subject, however, it was Robert’s use of delicate pencil and wash that Ruskin had seen and admired in a recent exhibition of Holy Land drawings, that Ruskin decided to adopt.  Although Ruskin did not adopt Turner’s advice as to technique, his influence is apparent in Ruskin’s diary entries which make detailed notes of atmospheric and colour effects. Furthermore, Ruskin made detours to look first-hand at the landscapes that had appealed to him in Turner’s recent publication, Rivers of France, published three years earlier in 1837.  

  • Limestone Cleavages at Talloires, France -
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    Signed lower right: Limestone Cleavages, Talloires/JR 1862

    Watercolour over pencil heightened with bodycolour on buff paper

    12.3 by 18.7 cm., 4 ¾ by 7 ¼ in.

     

    Provenance:

    North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, their sale, Sotheby’s 31st March 1999, lot 173;

    Private Collection

     

    Literature:

    `Acquisitions’, North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin Biennal Report, Issue IV, no. 2-3, 1st July 1961-30 June 1963, p.64, fig.23;

    Catalogue of Paintings, Volume II, British Paintings to 1900, North Carolina Museum of Art, 1969, no.109

     

    Ruskin spent several months in Switzerland and the Haute-Savoie, France in 1862-3. Talloires is on the east bank of the Lake of Annecy, about twenty-five miles south of Geneva. He was working on a book on Swiss towns and studying the geology of the area. In his Deucalion, published between 1875 and 1883, Ruskin writes: `I quickly saw that the elements of the question were all gathered in the formation of the mountains round the Lake of Annecy: and at Talloires, in the spring of 1862, made a series of studies of them, which only showed me how much more study I wanted.’

  • St Giles's Cathedral, Edinburgh -
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    Signed lower right: Edinburgh. J Ruskin 1837./signed/1879

    Pencil heightened with touches of white on grey-blue paper on wove paper watermarked: SMITH & AL…/1837, with cut corners

    18.9 by 24.6 cm., 7 ¼ by 9 ½ in.

     

    Provenance:

    Anonymous sale, Christie’s Edinburgh, 30th October 2003, lot 15;

    Private Collection

     

    This drawing dates from Ruskin’s visit to Edinburgh in August 1838 and is one of only about seven known drawings of the city. This may be the vignette which he drawn with the intention of reproducing it in Praeterita, a plan which he later abandoned. We are grateful to Dr James Dearden for his comments on this drawing.


  • The Towers of Fribourg, Switzerland -
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    Signed with initials lower centre

    Pen and black ink and watercolour over pencil heightened with white on blue paper

    37.2 by 24.6 cm., 14 ½ by 9 ½ in.

     

    Provenance:

    Probably Constance Hilliard, later Mrs W.H. Churchill (1852-1915)

     

    Literature:

    Probably The Works of John Ruskin (The Library Edition), ed. E.T. Cook & A. Wedderburn, 1903-1912, Vol. XXXVIII (inc. Catalogue of Ruskin’s Drawings), no. 737, p. 253

     

    This drawing is likely to be the one of the same size listed in Cook and Wedderburn as `Tower of Fribourg.’ In the Catalogue, the owner is given as Mrs. W.H. Churchill and the date of the drawing as 1856.  This was Constance (Connie) Hilliard, who became Mrs Churchill.  Her husband was the vicar of Reigate, and the present drawing came from a collection very close to Reigate.  Connie Hilliard was the niece of Lady Trevelyan and Ruskin first met her at Wallington in 1863 (when she was 12 years old).  She accompanied Ruskin on his continental tours (Italy and Switzerland) in 1866, 1870 and 1872.  Connie is referred to by Ruskin in a letter of 1866 as “my little daisy”, and in a letter of 1869 Ruskin signed himself to her as “your loving cuzzie”.  In addition to being amongst Ruskin’s closest female friends, she was a lifelong friend of Joan Severn, being the same age as her.  Either Ruskin or Joan could have given Connie the drawing at any time, but it is more likely to have been Ruskin in the 1870s.

     

    Ruskin visited Fribourg in 1854 on his way to Chamonix and again in 1856 when he was planning a series of engravings of Swiss towns to illustrate Swiss history. He was there with his parents from 9th to 14th July 1856 and then returned alone from 23rd August to 2nd September. He wrote `Out of four months on the Continent, I have taken only ten days of whole work, and ten days half work: those were to make some drawings of old bits of Thun and Fribourg, likely to be destroyed before I get back to them again’ (Letter to Pauline, Lady Trevelyan, 26th September 1856). He mainly drew the town’s towers, walls and densely grouped houses. The present drawing shows the Tour des Chats, the Porte de Berne in the foreground, then the Tour des Chats with the Tour Rouge beyond. Fourteen of Fribourg’s medieval towers still exist today mainly to the south and east of the town. 

     

    This drawing appears to be the basis for the watercolour of the same view in the British Museum which was engraved for Modern Painters in 1856, although the watercolour omits the Tour Rouge (see Robert Hewison, Ruskin, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites, exhibition catalogue, 2000, no.146, p.164, ill.). Ruskin comments on this drawing: `The other day I sketched the towers of the Swiss Fribourg hastily from the Hôtel de Zähringen. It was a misty morning with broken sunshine, and the towers were seen by flickering light through broken clouds, - dark blue mist filling the hollow of the valley behind them.’

     

    Other Fribourg drawings by Ruskin are in the British Museum (2), the Ashmolean, Fitzwilliam, Abbott Hall, the Fogg Art Gallery, Harvard, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the Ruskin Library, Lancaster (2). Many of these drawings are illustrated in John Hayman’s John Ruskin and Switzerland, Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1990, nos. 50-60, pp. 64-77.

     

    We are grateful to Stephen Wildman of the Ruskin Library for his help in cataloguing this drawing.

     

  • Spanish Chestnut at Carrara, Italy -
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    Pen and black ink over traces of pencil

    10.1 by 12.3 cm., 4 by 4 ¾ in.

     

    Provenance:

    Anonymous sale, Christie’s, 5th June 2007, lot 172;

    Private Collection

     

    Literature:

    Christopher Newall, John Ruskin – Artist and Observer, exhibition catalogue, 2014, p. 324, no. 115a, ill. p.325

     

    Exhibited:

    Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, John Ruskin – Artist and Observer, 14th to 11th May 2014, no. 115a;

    Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, John Ruskin – Artist and Observer, 4th July to 28th September 2014, no.115a

  • A Bough of Phillyrea -
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    Pen and black ink over traces of pencil on laid paper

    6.6 by 9.1 cm., 2 ½ by 3 ½ in.

     

    Provenance:

    Anonymous sale, Christie’s, 5th June 2007, lot 173;

    Private Collection

     

    Literature:

    Christopher Newall, John Ruskin – Artist and Observer, exhibition catalogue, 2014, p. 324, no. 115b, ill. p.325

     

    Exhibited:

    Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, John Ruskin – Artist and Observer, 14th to 11th May 2014, no. 115b;

    Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, John Ruskin – Artist and Observer, 4th July to 28th September 2014, no.115b

  • Study of the Skeleton of a Dalmatian Pelican -
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    Inscribed lower right: Pelican

    Pencil on light blue paper

    15.8 by 23.1 cm., 6 ¼ by 9 in.

     

    Provenance:

    Mr and Mrs Arthur Severn, Brantwood;

    Private Collection since 2003

     

    Exhibited:

    London, Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours, Ruskin Exhibition, 1901, no. 60 as 'Pelican's Head and Skull [two drawings]';

    Manchester City Art Gallery, Ruskin Exhibition, 1904, no. 413 as 'Pelican's Head and Skull [two drawings]' .
    London, The Fine Art Society, Ruskin Exhibition, 1907, no. 119 as 'Pelican's Head and Skull [two drawings]' .
    London, Royal Academy of Arts, Ruskin Centenary Exhibition, 1919, no. 31 as 'Head and skull of Pelican'.

     

     

    This drawing was made by life at the Zoological Gardens in London. It relates to a drawing of a Dalmatian Pelican (sold at Christie’s on 17th June 2014, lot 51 for £20,000) and the two drawings were evidently mounted and exhibited together. E.T. Cook records that this latter drawing was `one of a large number of [studies of] different birds which Ruskin made from life at the Zoological Gardens’ (see E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn (eds.), Works of John Ruskin (Library Edition), 1912, vol. 25, p. liii). Ruskin mainly worked on natural history studies from 1870 onwards.

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