At the heart of the collection is a large, representative group of drawings by Raphael and Michelangelo, which was acquired by public subscription in 1842 from the celebrated collection of the painter Sir Thomas Lawrence. Some years later, in 1855, there arrived the extraordinary gift from the collector Chambers Hall, including superb series of prints and drawings by Claude, the Ostade family and Rembrandt, as well as several drawings by Leonardo. In 1863, many of the prints and drawings from the enormous bequest of Francis Douce (d. 1834) were transferred from the Bodleian Library. Douce was particularly interested in Northern art of the Renaissance, and the bequest included important drawings and prints by Dürer and other German, French, and Netherlandish masters. The deposit in 1985 of the collection of Guercino drawings belonging to Sir Denis Mahon made the Ashmolean a principal repository of the work of this brilliant seventeenth-century draughtsman.
For more information on current research on the Douce Collection go to the Douce Blog
English Drawings and Watercolours
The collection of English drawings and watercolours also has its roots in the Douce and Chambers Hall collections and has been much enriched by subsequent gifts and purchases. It contains strong groups of works by Rowlandson, Girtin, Alexander and John Robert Cozens, Cotman, Sandby, and Cox. The group of drawings by Samuel Palmer, bought by Sir Karl Parker before the artist became as popular as he is now, is second to none, and works by the Pre-Raphaelites are also numerous, including over one hundred by Burne-Jones.
The Ruskin Collection
Of particular relevance to the University are the gifts of John Ruskin, Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford in the 1870s and 1880s. His collection was used to illustrate his lectures and the teaching in the School of Art that bears his name. It includes some three hundred and thirty of his own drawings and seventyseven sheets by J.M.W. Turner.
Ruskin’s Teaching Collections can be found online at ruskin.ashmus.ox.ac.uk.
Twentieth Century Prints
Among the holdings of works by twentieth-century artists, there are sixty-seven caricatures by Sir Max Beerbohm and a representative group of drawings by Sickert and the Camden Town Group. Thereafter the collection concentrates on the figurative tradition in drawing including the Lewin Gift of John Piper drawings and prints and on twentieth-century British wood engraving. It includes major archival collections of a number of engravers such as Gertrude Hermes, George Mackley, Robin Tanner, and Leon Underwood. This has been augmented in recent years by the deposit of the Diploma Collection of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. For livres d’artiste, visitors may consult items in the Christopher Hewett collection.
The Pissarro Archive
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Print Room became one of the principal centres for the study of Impressionism, thanks to the donation of the Pissarro family collection. This comprises paintings, prints, drawings, books, and letters by Camille, Lucien, Orovida, and other members of the Pissarro family.
The Ashmolean also holds the most significant collection in Britain of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russian drawings, much of which was bequeathed by Mikhail Braikevitch (1874–1940), including ballet designs by Bakst, Benois and Korovin. A fine group of drawings by Leonid Pasternak was presented by his daughters in 1958. The Talbot Collection contains a remarkable range of Russian topographical material, especially prints of St Petersburg. Dr Grete Ring's bequest of nineteenth-century German and French drawings, including works by Caspar David Friedrich and Edgar Degas, came to the Ashmolean in 1954. It forms the nucleus of a collection of nineteenth-century German drawings hardly equalled outside Germany. In recent years, the Ashmolean has acquired a significant group of contemporary German and Swiss prints.
Of primarily historical interest, but still containing items of great artistic value, are two print collections formed in the first half of the nineteenth century. Alexander Hendras Sutherland (d. 1820) and his wife grangerized folio editions of Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion and Burnet’s History of His Own Time with over nineteen thousand portraits and topographical views illustrating the text, which were presented by Mrs Sutherland in 1838. Secondly, the Revd F.W. Hope amassed a vast collection of topographical prints and portraits of British and foreign sitters, which he presented to the University in 1850.
Drawings of Oxford
An extensive collection of drawings of Oxford, made for the Oxford Almanacks, is on deposit from the Oxford University Press. However, the Ashmolean does not have a specialized collection of local topography, and visitors interested in Oxford topography should contact the Oxfordshire History Centre, Temple Road, Cowley OX4 2HT [t] 01865 398200. [w] www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/oxfordshirehistory.