Ruskin's Botanical Drawings

John Ruskin, Leaf Studies - Bramble, RF1344 © Ruskin Foundation

Ruskin, John (1819-1900)

Leaf Studies – Rubus species, c.1854-56.
23 x 34.3 cm
Pencil, ink and ink wash on grey paper

RF 1344


A delicate but precise study by Ruskin, foreshadowing the kind of teaching by natural observation he promoted at the Working Men's College. It was engraved by R.P. Cuff as part of Plate 8, The Growth of Leaves, in volume III of Modern Painters (1856). Describing the leaf-bud of a rose (in a digression during the chapter entitled 'Of Mediæval Landscape'), Ruskin enthuses over "the expanding power of joyful vegetative youth; and it is of all simple forms the most exquisitely delightful to the human mind." (5.266)

This is a superb drawing of the elegant arrangement of the trifoliate, semi-evergreen leaves at the tip of one of the long, arching, spiny stems of a Rubus species; Rose family – Rosaceae), a highly complex and genetically variable native genus. It may be Bramble (syn. Blackberry; Rubus fruticosus, L.), a hedgerow and woodland species with hundreds of variants, usually having either tri-foliate or tetra-foliate leaves, thorny, angled stems, white or pink flowers and purplish-black ripe fruits. Alternatively, it may be the weaker-stemmed Dewberry (Rubus caesius, L.), a sprawling sub-shrub that usually grows in limestone areas and has trifoliate leaves, slightly spiny, round stems, white flowers, occasionally pink, and bluish-black ripe fruits with a waxy bloom. Or it may be a hybrid between these two species.

This entry was researched and written by Professor David Ingram.