Ruskin Library and Research Centre


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Ruskin Research


Drawing from Nature

We have a number of sheep skulls, and some vertebra, in our collection of drawing objects - these have always proved very popular with visiting children. They were found in the grounds of John Ruskin's home at Brantwood.

Ruskin doesn't seem to have drawn real sheep, despite the large numbers on Coniston fells, except for this drawing of sheeps' trotters, engraved as an illustration for the Laws of Fesole, published in 1877-9. He did however compare sheep to clouds (the fluffy appearance) and to people (their behaviour) and also talked about sheep in the paintings of Turner and the Old Masters - the Ruskin Library collection includes his drawing of sheep from Botticelli's Zipporah.


John Ruskin: Sheeps trotters (from Laws of Fesole)


Herdwick sheep

Herdwick sheep are a hardy breed, well suited to living on the Lakeland fells. They have grey faces and white ears: lambs are born with almost black wool which turns lighter as they grow older. The fleece is coarse (to protect them from the weather) and is used undyed, for carpets and heavy garments. The author Beatrix Potter was well known in the Lake District as a breeder of Herdwick sheep - when she died in 1943 she left land to the National Trust on condition that Herdwicks continued to be kept on it.



Although most of the 'bones' in our collection have come from sheep, we have also been give some beautiful deer and bird skulls - much more delicate, and quite different to draw from the sheep bones.


Deer skulls by Garstang Community Primary School




Two views of the same skull, and a photograph of our skull.

There are many types of deer in England - we don't know what this one is, and could do with some expert advice! Ruskin would have seen deer on his walks whilst living at Coniston

Deer skull
Eagle, by John Ruskin, engraved for 'Eagle's Nest'
Bird skull




Some beautifully detailed drawings of bird skulls by our visiting children - we don't know exactly what they are but at least one is a bird of prey and one may be a gull of some kind - and a dramatic drawing of an eagle by John Ruskin, engraved for his book 'Eagle's Nest'.


bird skulls

Some bird skulls from our collection

School Visits Drawing Workshop Book
John Ruskin Booking a Visit



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Gallery: -
Monday-Friday 10am-4pm - during Exhibitions (closed weekends and Bank Holidays)
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