4 April 2017

The Ashmolean’s spring exhibition tells one of the most compelling stories in the history of art - the rise of Modernism. From about 1800 to the middle of the twentieth century, this story was played out in France and especially in Paris where international artists were drawn by salons and dealers, the creative exchange between poets and painters and the bohemian atmosphere of such places as Montmartre and Montparnasse. The exhibition plots a course from the Romantic artists (David, Gericault and Delacroix) to the groundbreaking experiments of Picasso, Braque and Léger; but it shows that there was no straight line leading from tradition to the shock of abstraction. The story is altogether more interesting as the academic and the avant-garde exchanged ideas and rivalries developed between different schools and powerful characters. In works by Bonnard, Manet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Degas and Picasso, the exhibition explores the artists who created Modernism and how they did it.


Studies of Two Apostles for the Transfiguration (detail) by Raphael

RAPHAEL: THE DRAWINGS brings together over a hundred works by Raphael from international collections, a once-in-a-lifetime event. The exhibition aims to transform our understanding of Raphael through a focus on the immediacy and expressiveness of his drawing. The selection of works encompasses the artist’s entire career from his early years in Umbria to the period when he was at the height of his powers in Florence and Rome. It includes major projects such as the Vatican frescoes and will explore his visual language from sketchy ideas to full compositions. With an emphasis on Raphael’s restless imagination evident in his drawings, this exhibition showcases new research on a core group of drawings following technical investigation by the Ashmolean’s Conservation Department.


Exploring Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, this is the first exhibition to look at the art of the five world religions which spread across continents in the first millennium AD. The exhibition will show remarkable objects created when the iconography of each religion was still being developed: images of a young, smoothskinned Christ before he was shown as the bearded ascetic; and representations of the Buddha in his footprints and hands, before he became the sculptural statue familiar to later generations. The exhibition argues that art and imagery, as much as the written word, were central to the spread of these systems of belief; and that the visual identity of each religion was forged by the encounters and interactions between different faiths and other traditions.