Issued 28 February 2018:


The Ashmolean is home to one of the world’s most important groups of drawings by Michelangelo.  These fragile treasures of the collection are kept in the Western Art Print Room and can be seen by members of the public by appointment.  In November 2017 the Ashmolean sent twenty-six Michelangelo drawings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, supporting its uniquely important exhibition, Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer (13 November 2017–12 February 2018)The unprecedented generosity of this loan has led to a new collaborative partnership.  The Met has now loaned eighteen exceptionally important paintings to the Ashmolean for our spring exhibition AMERICA’S COOL MODERNISM: O’KEEFFE TO HOPPER.  With the return of the Michelangelo drawings to Oxford, the Ashmolean wishes to give its own museum visitors the opportunity to see them before they rest from the light in the Print Room.  They will be on show to the public in a special display for just four weeks.

One of the most outstanding and celebrated artists of all time, Michelangelo (1475–1564) was known and praised in his own lifetime as a brilliant draughtsman.  The drawings on view, which have survived the centuries, reflect his wide-ranging career as a painter, sculptor, architect and designer.  As well as inventive sketches, the artist made drawings as independent works of art for patrons or as gifts to intimate friends.  A particularly beautiful and haunting image, the Ideal Head, is a warm-toned red chalk drawing of an intense, brooding figure made around 1518–20, probably as a gift from an artist who was also a poet.  Here Michelangelo’s handling ranges widely from the sketchily indicated costume to subtle tonal modelling of the features and fine details like the silhouetted eyelashes.  From later in his career comes another highlight, a Crucifixion with distraught mourning figures, made in the mid-1550s as part of a series of drawings on this subject. At this time Michelangelo explored themes of torment, repentance and salvation in both his poetry and art, and the passion of Christ had special devotional significance for him.  The Ashmolean drawing is highly worked and imbued with emotion: the tremulous repetition of the outlines and the brushing over of corrections with white lead give it both a hesitant, tentative quality and almost visionary radiance.

Amongst the twenty-six drawings on display are architectural designs; studies for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Medici Tombs; and the great religious subjects of high Renaissance art such as the Pietà and the Descent from the Cross.




Claire Parris, Press Officer
claire.parris@ashmus.ox.ac.uk | T+44 (0)1865 278 178 | M+44 (0)7833 384 512 | @AshmoleanPress

Display: Michelangelo Drawings
Dates: 6 March–2 April 2018
Venue: Gallery 8, Lower Ground Floor
General Admission:
Tuesday–Sunday, 10am–5pm
Free, booking recommended: www.ashmolean.org/event/michelangelo
Early morning viewings:
Fridays & Saturdays throughout March: 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31 March
£11/£10 concessions, booking essential: www.ashmolean.org/event/michelangelo


Press images for editorial use are available to download at http://bit.ly/2ow14Po

O'Keeffe to Hopper

23 March–22 July 2018                  
The Ashmolean’s spring exhibition will present works by American artists that have never before travelled outside the USA. AMERICA’S COOL MODERNISM will show over eighty paintings, photographs and prints, and the first American avant-garde film, Manhatta, from international collections. Eighteen key loans will come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and a further twenty-seven pieces are being loaned by the Terra Foundation for American Art with whom the exhibition is organised. Thirty-five paintings have never been to the UK and seventeen of these have never left the USA at all.  Download the press release here.