The collection of drawings in the Ashmolean is one of the greatest treasures of the University of Oxford.
It began spectacularly in 1843 when a group of drawings by Raphael and Michelangelo that had previously belonged to the portrait painter, Sir Thomas Lawrence, was bought by subscription.
Lawrence's collection was one of the greatest collections of Old Master drawings ever assembled and its dispersal was much regretted.
The Raphaels and Michelangelos, however, were the jewels in its crown.
Following their arrival in Oxford, their fame attracted a number of gifts and bequests of drawings and watercolours by Durer, Claude Lorraine, Brueghel, J.
M. W Turner and many others. This is a story not only of Old Masters but of benefactors - Francis Douce, Chambers Hall, John Ruskin and their successors - whose different tastes account for the variety of the drawings in the modern Print Room.
It is a story also of the curators who bought them. In particular, it is the story of Sir Karl Parker who arrived at the museum in 1934 and left a collection when he retired in 1962 that comprehensively covered the history of the art of drawing in Europe from its origins to the present day. The exhibition, Master Drawings: Michelangelo to Moore, celebrates this history.
It includes many of the finest drawings in Oxford, representing the work of many different artists: Raphael and Michelangelo; Durer and the artists of the Northern Renaissance; Guercino and Rubens; Boucher and Tiepolo; German Romantics; J.
M. W. Turner; Degas and Pissarro; the artists of the Ballets Russes; British twentieth-century artists from Gwen John to Hockney; and much else.