News item from 2009

Detail: The Message to the Planet, Tom Phillips

The Ashmolean Museum acquires an extensive collection of drawings by Tom Phillips RA

The collection spans the chronological range and genres of his work, from a drawing of his mother made before he went to university, to a set design for The Magic Flute at Opera Holland Park in 2008.

Its centrepiece is the entire series of 107 drawings published in the book Merry Meetings, sketched at board meetings at the British Museum, Royal Academy, and elsewhere (2005). It also includes studies for portraits; sketch books; life studies; collages; designs for panels in All Souls’ Chapel, Westminster Cathedral; for tapestries in St Catherine’s College, Oxford; for street furniture, for book covers, and for the Royal Mint.

Born in 1937, Tom Phillips is one of Britain’s most eminent artists. His intellectual range and artistic versatility comprises portrait painter, book designer, translator, musician, graphic artist, printmaker, sculptor and designer. With solo exhibitions at the ICA (1973), the Basel Kunsthalle (1975), the National Portrait Gallery (1989), and the Royal Academy (1993), he was elected RA in 1989 and appointed CBE in 2002. As the Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford in 2006, he arranged a micro-retrospective of his work in the Ashmolean, which formed an integral part of his lecture series Making Art Work, acclaimed as one of the most imaginative and innovative in living memory.

In 2007, the Bodleian Library acquired an important archive of material relating to Phillips’s Dante’s Inferno. The Ashmolean’s new acquisition constitutes an unprecedented example of a developing collaboration between the University of Oxford’s Museum of Art and Archaeology and its principal library to create mutually complementary collections, fully representing one of the outstanding artistic talents of the last half century in Britain.

Establishing the Tom Phillips archive at the Ashmolean provides the Museum’s Print Room with a major contribution to its collection of 21st century works on paper. Housing one of Britain’s finest collections of European prints and drawings from the fifteenth century to the present day, the Print Room features the largest collection of Raphael’s drawings in the world, along with notable groups of drawings by Turner, Samuel Palmer, John Ruskin and Camille and Lucien Pissarro, amongst many others.

The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections. Recent achievements include: helping secure Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London in February 2009 with a grant of £1 million; helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit . The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174.

The Ashmolean is completing the final phase of its major £61 million redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Linbury Trust. Opening in November 2009, the new Ashmolean building, designed by the architect Rick Mather, will provide the Museum with 39 new galleries, a new education centre, conservation studios, a walkthrough between the Museum and the Cast Gallery and Oxford’s first rooftop café. For more information visit / transforming.

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