Mountains in Miniature

In 2019 we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of art critic, cultural commentator, teacher and painter John Ruskin (1819 – 1900). This display revealed a lesser-known side to Ruskin’s activities: 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 this Museum's collections. He had important connections with Oxford, studying here 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, as this building was originally known. In 1869, he also became the University’s Slade Professor of Fine Art.

Ruskin was passionate about mountains, travelling to Europe and visiting the Alps on many occasions. 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.