It’s been a while since we had a day out but with the forecast promising no improvement in the chilly, rainy weather, we opted for an indoor destination: The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Having undergone transformation recently, it’s somewhere which has been on our list to visit before the tourists arrive, most certainly not a place to go on a weekend or bank holiday. A brisk Wednesday morning in the week before the school holidays begin seemed more than acceptable.
We did our usual trick of starting at the “wrong end”, needing a little sustenance from the fourth floor restaurant before we embarked on our exploration, but were so pleased we did. There was a remarkable exhibition of drawings/prints done by Weimin He, a Fellow of Chinese Painting at the museum, recording the people who have worked on the transformation.
The portraits were delightful and depicted everyone from the permanent museum staff to the construction workers and contractors. Some were framed and hung, others were laid on the floor as above, which proved an effective means of showing a large number of similar works.
Most of these portraits were worked in a loose, sketchy style, with minimal shading but highly effective personal details.
But though these woodcut-style prints were heavier and less detailed, they nevertheless worked for both of us and we spent quite some time enjoying the chance to take a closer look and note the characters, the situations and the humour.
It proved to be a great start to our visit.
Next we wandered into the exhibit charting the whole process of transformation from the initial concept, through the minute detail of planning right through to the grand opening last November. Can you believe that every object was drawn to scale and catalogued as above?
The whole process of working all of this out, making miniature models of the proposed display cabinets and arrangements fascinated us both and we spent another while ooohing and aaaaahing at the thought of putting all of this together. What a fascinating job.
But we had come for culture and though this was all very interesting, we made on and wandered through several art galleries before spotting a pair of gorgeous furry feet.
I bet you can guess whose feet they are?
Yes, I’m always a sucker for a Samurai! As usual, I am fascinated by the knots, the braids, the detail. Oh, and of course, the slippers!
These galleries were full of school groups though, generally older students sketching and working on their own, but nevertheless, the luxury of having the place to ourselves wasn’t there. We contented ourselves with picking out one or two choice pieces for close inspection – I particularly liked the way in which this chrysanthemum cup and saucer was displayed with the quotation behind it. Lovely colour too.
Fortunately, the museum has an enlightened approach towards photography and permits the use of cameras without flash. So, I was able to add to my collection of finely worked cuffs on beautifully painted hands. Above, by Frans Hals and below, by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
The best thing is that there is plenty left for further visits. We’ll be back!