Ashmolean Museum to Stage Extensive Exhibition of Raphael Drawings

A Raphael show of this size hasn't taken place since 1983.

Raphael, Self-Portrait (1499). Collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which holds the largest group of Raphael drawings in the world, is set to stage an exhibition of 125 drawings attributed to the Old Master, opening on June 1. Not since 1983, when an exhibition of drawings from British collections went on display at the British Museum, has such an extensive showing of Raphael sketches gone on view.

The presentation will take the audience from Raphael’s early career in Umbria through his time spent working in Florence and Rome, when he worked on projects including the Vatican frescoes. Demonstrating how the artist used drawing as a research tool for his later paintings, the exhibition seeks to reveal how he refined his process through the medium.

“The generosity of lenders and supporters has enabled us to give people a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity—that of experiencing the visual and emotive power of Raphael’s hand, and of understanding Raphael’s genius,” Ashmolean director Xa Sturgis said in a statement.

The majority of the Ashmolean’s collection comes from the portrait painter Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830), whose 50 drawings by Raphael were acquired by the museum in 1845. Works from the Albertina Museum, Vienna, which will host the exhibition this coming fall, and other international collections will also be view.

“‘Raphael:The Drawings’ aims to shift the ground in our appreciation of Raphael by looking at his drawings as worlds in themselves, where we see the artist’s hand and mind in tune as thoughts take shape before our eyes through the process and materials of drawing,” Dr Catherine Whistler, Keeper of Western Art, Ashmolean Museum, and exhibition curator, said in a statement.

“The idea of eloquence runs through the exhibition, not only in the shaping of Raphael’s powerful visual language but also in the tactile and gestural qualities of the drawings and in their expressive power—aspects that also make the drawings ‘speak’ in arresting ways to viewers today,” she concluded.

“Raphael: The Drawings” is on view at the Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH, United Kingdom, June 1–September 3, 2017.

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