Sketching in the Ashmolean Museum

What is the purpose of a museum? The previous evening, I’d been to a lecture by Tim Reeve, Deputy Director of the V&A. He had described, with great conviction, a new building they plan for East London, in “Here East” on the former Olympic Park. It will open up the V&A storage and logistics centre to public view. People will be able to work there, and be inspired by the objects. The idea is to generate “creative career opportunities in East London”. I could see how the proposed building, its architecture and the way it will be used are oriented firmly towards that clear aim. Well done V&A.

So, sitting in the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology in Oxford, I wondered what was the purpose of this museum. I was in the Randolph Sculpture Gallery, which contains a collection of Greek and Roman marble statues, collected in the 17th century.

The main use of the gallery, at that point in the day, was for people to sit on the upholstered seats, and chat, and use their mobile phones. In my sketch, I drew the three benches I could see, each of which is occupied by someone staring at their mobile phone. In the background, a monumental head of Apollo looks on.

This part of the gallery seemed to be serving as a public living room, which is perhaps as fine a purpose for a museum as any.

On the lower level there is a large Egyptian statue on a tall plinth.

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An elderly gentleman chose this place to read his paper. Through the plinth, I could just see a woman chatting to someone via her screen.

There are many ways to enjoy a museum.

I walked about sketching things.

Here is an object from one of my favourite parts of the museum. It is a Yue ware pot, about a thousand years old. It’s small, only about 5 inches tall, and a gleaming green colour. It’s lovely to draw these things, as it in only by looking for a long time that I gradually become aware of the marks of the fingers of the maker, and of the slight irregularities in the shape.

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Oxford: Pitt Rivers annex and Merton Chapel

This little building to the right (South) of the Pitt Rivers Museum has often intrigued me. It has four chimneys. one in each corner.

After I’d drawn it, I went to try to find out what it is. It appears to be connected to the Pitt Rivers Museum, but has no special name itself, and its purpose was not stated.  Since I finished the drawing at about half past seven in the evening, the door was closed and locked and no-one was about. It is in the same style as the main Pitt Rivers Museum.

“The new Museum building was structurally completed in 1860, and is now considered a gem of middle Victorian neo-Gothic architecture”

says the museum’s website.* In the background you can see the roofs and pipework of the science site. On the right is the Radcliffe Science library.

The strange vehicle in the foreground trundled in while I was drawing. It looks like a garden shed on wheels. The registration number is: Q710 LBW.

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On my way home after the lecture I drew this quick sketch of Merton Chapel looking down the marvellously named “Magpie Lane” off the High Street.

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Pitt-Rivers Annex: 1 hour 40mins

Merton Chapel: 40 mins

Both in Jacksons Watercolour Sketchbook. Pen and wash.

I have drawn pictures in Oxford before:

Oxford, St Giles , 

Two sketches in Oxford,

Old Observatory, Oxford

 

*The Pitt Rivers Museum Website contains a document on its history (consulted July 1st 2018) http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/sma/index.php/articles/article-index/436-prehistory-of-the-pitt-rivers-museum.html

 

Oxford, St Giles

As the daylight faded, I made this sketch from outside 37 St Giles, Estagun House.

St Giles is the name of the road going North out of Oxford, and also of the Church, which where the road starts. There has been a “St Giles” church near Oxford from at least 1120.

“St Giles is supposed to have protected a wounded deer from hunters, and images of him usually show him accompanied by a deer pierced by an arrow. Many churches dedicated to St Giles are situated just outside city limits, where they could minister particularly to those who resembled the wounded deer – the weak and defenceless, such as lepers and beggars, who might not be welcomed into the city. Today, the St Giles congregation continues this tradition by working with the homeless.” [St Giles Church website]

The building is from 1200, the lower part of the tower in the drawing is 13th century. The top was altered in the 15th century.

Behind the tower, you see a crane, which is building part of Somerville College.

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I was staying in St Benets Hall, 38 St Giles. Here is the view from the window.

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Two sketches in Oxford

Here is the corner of Catte Street. On the left is the Kings Arms, a Youngs pub. The marvellous turret on the right is part of the Oxford Martin School. This building was originally the “Indian Institute”. It was designed by Basil Champneys in 1884. The weathercock is an elephant.

It now houses the Oxford Martin School.

“The School is a unique, interdisciplinary research initiative addressing key global future challenges….A key aim of the School is to mitigate the most pressing risks and realise exciting new opportunities of the 21st century. With interdisciplinary teams of researchers from across the university, the School is working on the frontiers of knowledge in four broad areas: health and medicine; energy and environment; technology and society; and ethics and governance. Aiming to have an impact beyond academia, the School also develops wide-ranging initiatives, intellectual programmes and public events to engage with national and international policymakers, business, students and the general public.”[LinkedIn]

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On the way back from the lecture I sketched this domed building.

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This is Rhodes House. It houses the Rhodes Trust, The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and the Atlantic Institute, according to the notice on the door.

Both pictures took about an hour. The first one was sketched from the steps of the Weston Library, about 50 mins. By the time I’d finished the pen sketch, the light had gone. So I finished the colouring in my room in LMH that evening. The light in the top right hand corner is not some amazing watercolour technique, but the light from the small and very bright desk light.

The one of Rhodes House I sketched standing up leaning on Inorganic Chemistry. I coloured it sitting down on the tiled pavement, on a copy of the Economist.