August 19, 2005
Museum opening hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm, Thursday 10am - 7pm, Sunday 12pm - 5pm. Tel: 278000Kate Heard, Supervisor of the Ashmolean's Print Room, gave two talks this month on the collection's ‘treasures'. The Print Room is open to the public Tuesdays to Saturdays and houses one of the finest collections in this country of European prints and drawings from the fifteenth century to the present day. All you need to do is turn up and you can ask to see works by Rembrandt, Dürer, Leonardo, Rubens, Constable, Turner and Degas among many others. Space is limited so it is advisable to book an appointment and it is important to do so if you want to see the Michelangelos or Raphaels.
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.