Works on paper are particularly sensitive to light and humidity, hence the collection is boxed up in cabinets around the room. Kate emphasised that the works are effectively on display as you can just turn up and ask to see them: the Print Room is an extra gallery of the museum. The very fact that all these thousands of works are boxed up, with gloved attendants retrieving them to your order, add to the experience. Your requested drawing is placed in front of you on a table easel. In the peaceful and studious atmosphere of the Print Room you are likely to take your time and really contemplate the work. Kate showed us six ‘treasures' from the collection and I can recollect them all vividly, having taken the time to study them at close quarters rather than wandering round an exhibition only pausing for a few moments in front of each object.
Kate began by showing us a beautiful Raphael silverpoint of a mother and child. She showed us works from across the centuries and continent and highlighted the different purposes of drawings. The Raphael was used as a design for a print but it may also have been produced as a commission for a patron. Ruskin's drawings were used as his teaching collection in lectures when he was Professor of Fine Arts at the University in the 1870s and 80s. We saw his watercolour of a carved marble griffin in Verona in beautiful oranges and pinks. Kate finished by showing us a John Piper Somerset church tower, depicted with economy, just a few brush strokes in vivid turquoise and orange.
Talks in the Print Room are a regular feature in the Ashmolean's calendar of events, but do not wait for the next one, you can visit the Print Room at any time, turn up, choose your favourite artist and enjoy.