Ruskin’s ‘mountains in miniature’

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Ruskin

This temporary display is devoted to celebrating a little-known aspect of the art critic, cultural commentator, teacher and painter John Ruskin, his love of minerals. Ruskin collected minerals from the time he was a boy, and some of his specimens, bearing his own numbers and hand-written labels, are in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History collections.  

Ruskin had important connections with Oxford.  He studied there himself from 1837 to 1842, he provided drawings of botanical details that were used in some of the stone carvings in the new University Museum (the original name for OUMNH), and in 1869 he became the University’s Slade Professor of Fine Art.

Mountains were Ruskin’s passion and he travelled to Europe and visited the Alps on numerous occasions. He wrote that he saw every stone as ‘a mountain in miniature’, and recommended that art students study mineral specimens to train the eye and appreciate the beauty and variety of nature.

The historical specimens in the display from the Museum’s collections include one from the Alps that Ruskin personally presented to William Buckland, the first Reader of Mineralogy and Geology at the University of Oxford.  Buckland’s wife Mary became Ruskin’s friend and shared his love of mineral collecting.  Specimens formerly owned by her from Australia and Brazil show the global range of minerals available to the Victorian collector through specialist dealers.  Other specimens from Britain include minerals from Cornwall and the Lake District where Ruskin made his home.   A handlist giving details of all the minerals in the display is available on request at the Reception Desk.

Until 4th November 2019

Free, drop in. Suitable for all.

Find out more about our events programme ceelbrating the John Ruskin bicentenary.

Map showing that the presenting case is just to the left, next to the help desk, as you enter the Oxford Natural History Museum through the main door.