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Home | Russian Art | The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford

The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford

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The present Ashmolean Museum was founded in 1908 as a result of merging two ancient Oxford Institutions: The University Art Galleries and the original Ashmolean Museum.

University of Oxford – Ashmolean MuseumUniversity of Oxford – Ashmolean MuseumThe history of University Art Collection began in the 1620s with a small collection of portraits and curiosities. Over the following centuries it was enriched by important collections of fine and applied art mostly donated by former members of the University or other patrons. In 1845 the new building in the Classical style, designed by Charles Robert Cockerell, became a permanent site of University Art Galleries. 

The other part of the present Ashmolean Museum, the original Ashmolean Museum opened its doors in 1683 for the display of the collection amassed by Had Elias Ashmole (1617-92), which the latter bequeathed to the University. The original Ashmolean collection contained man-made ‘curiosities’ and antiquities from all over the world. In the course of XIX c the original Ashmolean museum changed its main focus from being a natural history collection to collecting and displaying archaeological material. The original Ashmolean could not cope with the influx of new archaeological acquisitions, therefore the University build for it a new structure at the rear of the University Galleries.  In 1894 Ashmolean collections were transferred to the new site, and, after coexisting for several years, in 1908 the two institutions were merged to become Ashmolean Mueum of Art and Archaeology. As a result of the merging of the two very different institutions, the present Ashmolean contains specialised collections from across a wide range of cultures. (source of information: History of the Ashmolean, http://www.ashmolean.org/about/historyandfuture/, © 2011 University of Oxford – Ashmolean Museum).

Russian collections. The Department of Western Art drawings of the Ashmolean Museum possesses small, but important collection of 163 Russian drawings which includes work by the leading figures of Russian art world of the XIX – first half of the XX c: Orest Kiprensky, Pavel Fedotov,  Vasily Perov, Ilia Repin, Valentin Serov, Boris Kustodiev, Alexandr Benois, Lev Bakst, Nikolay Roerich, Alexandra Exter, Alexandr Yakovlev, Filip Malyavin, Ivan Bilibin, Konstantin Korovin, Konstantin Somov, Leonid Paternak, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Natalia Goncharova, Pavel Tchelitcheew, Sergei Tchehonine, Semen Lissim.

The Department of Western Art Painting also has some Russian work, mainly Russian icons. The oldest pieces are the icon of St Nicholas and Elijah fed by a Crow of XV-XVI cc. The only secular work is a landscape Sketch of a Russian Village by Konstantin Korovin, oil on board.

The Silver Collection of the museum holds a silver vessel attributed to Russian make of probably XIX c. It has been catalogued as ‘kovshik’ – a miniature version of ‘kovsh’, a traditional Russian vessel in the form of a swimming bird.
More detailed information about Russian objects and photographic images can be assessed on-line at http://www.ashmolean.org/ash/objects/.