Ruskin Library and Research Centre


Ruskin Library


Ruskin Research


Drawing from Nature

Although most of the plant drawing in our drawing workshop is done from fresh, seasonal flowers, we have also have a collection of dried plant material which many children enjoy.

... if you will try to draw the spiral of the fir-cone, you will understand something about tree-perspective...

John Ruskin, Modern Painters, V

“June 16th   I have a branch of sapin beside me, gathered from  one of the topmost fragments of the shattered pines of les Pelerins: it differs in many particulars from the lower bough described at Page 5.  In the first place, the main stem, though half an inch thick retains all the markings of the leaves, as at a.  The leaves being themselves somewhat stronger and longer than below.  The side twigs are the sixth of an inch think, and terminated bluntly without tapering, their leaves being inclined upwards, so as to give the section b which is narrower in the sides than the top, owing to the leaves being curved at the sides: this being exactly contrary in mode of variation, to the lower bough.”

John Ruskin, Diary 1844

[Sapin is a French word for pine]


Pine cone, by Nether Kellet School



A page from John Ruskin's Diary, 1844
Poppy head, by Nether Kellet School

Poppy head, by Garstang Community Primary School



Poppy, by Storth School

Ruskin mentioned poppies quite often in his writings, but in relation to classical authors, not the plants. Here, however, he describes poppy flowers

We usually think of the poppy as a coarse flower; but it is the most transparent and delicate of all the blossoms of the field. The rest—nearly all of them—depend on the texture of their surfaces for colour. But the poppy is painted glass; it never glows so brightly as when the sun shines through it. Wherever it is seen—against the light or with the light—always, it is a flame, and warms the wind like a blown ruby.

John Ruskin, Proserpina, 1875-1886



... the peculiar characters of bark which express the growth and age of the tree; for bark is no mere excrescence, lifeless and external, it is a skin of especial significance in its indications of the organic form beneath; in places under the arms of the tree it wrinkles up and forms fine lines round the trunk, inestimable in their indication of the direction of its surface; in others, it bursts or peels longitudinally, and the rending and bursting of it are influenced in direction and degree by the undergrowth and swelling of the woody fibre, and are not a mere roughness and granulated pattern of the hide.

John Ruskin, Modern Painters, Vol. 1, 1843

Lotus head



Ruskin was familiar with lotus blossom from both ancient writers such as Homer and from in use in architectural design. In his work The Iliad, Homer writes about them when describing the coming of Spring on Mount Ida

“beneath them the divine earth caused fresh grass to spring up, and dewy lotus and crocus . . . and they were clothed with a cloud, beauteous, golden.”

Dried Lotus Flower, by Storth School
Pomegranate, by Garstang Community Primary School




Pomegranates are another plant connected with ancient times - in Ruskin's writings particularly with Persephone (who he referred to by the Roman name of Proserpine) the Greek goddess of vegetation.

Pomegranate, by Nether Kellet School



Cones from our collection of objects


If you would like to see more of our botanical drawings, look at our Ruskin's Flora exhibition page, and our expanding illustrated catalogue of botanical drawings.

School Visits Drawing Workshop Book
John Ruskin Booking a Visit



Opening times:
Gallery: -
Monday-Friday 10am-4pm - during Exhibitions (closed weekends and Bank Holidays)
Reading Room: - Monday-Friday 10am-4pm - (by appointment only)

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