Art historian co-curates ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ Raphael exhibition

Dr Ben Thomas, an art historian at the University, is co-curating an exhibition described as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to see 120 drawings by the Italian master Raphael.

Dr Ben Thomas, an art historian at the University, is co-curating an exhibition described as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to see 120 drawings by the Italian master Raphael.

The exhibition, at the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum from 1 June-3 September, brings together works from a number of major international collections, as well as 50 works from the museum’s own Raphael drawings collection, which is the largest in the world.

Dr Thomas, senior lecturer at Kent’s School of Arts, has co-curated the Raphael exhibition, entitled Raphael: The Drawings, alongside Dr Catherine Whistler, Keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean.

The exhibition aims to transform people’s understanding of Raphael through a focus on the ‘immediacy and expressiveness’ of his drawing. It will show how Raphael, throughout his career, engaged in an ‘intensive search through drawing for possibilities of expression that would enable him to fulfil his far-reaching ambitions’.

Among the important works on display is the Study of the heads and hands of two Apostles (1519-20), which relates to the Transfiguration altarpiece, arguably the most impressive drawing ever made by Raphael.

Dr Thomas said that he expected the exhibition would provide a fresh and intimate insight into Raphael’s creativity, enhancing visitors’ appreciation and understanding of the artist.

The exhibition, which takes place in the John Sainsbury Exhibition Galleries at the museum,  was developed in partnership with The Albertina in Vienna and is supported by interdisciplinary research funded by the Leverhulme Trust.