The Ashmolean Museum and Compton Verney, October 2013

Posted on Monday 3rd February 2014

LAF member Kathleen Prince writes:

An early start, found us at Compton Verney in time for lunch. This independent art gallery, housed in a Grade 1 listed mansion, provided a relaxing, and fascinating break to our journey. Three floors of gallery space are home to six diverse collections of nationally and internationally significant art from around the world, and following our talk, the group dispersed to investigate.

Firstly though, our guide focused on the impressive collection of British Portraits. For me, perhaps the most notable of these may have been the smallest, but perhaps the most powerful – Samuel Cooper’s 10.4cm, ‘pimples, warts and everything as you see me,’ image of Oliver Cromwell.

Compton Verney has the largest collection of British folk art in the UK, both paintings and objects. The latter were particularly fascinating and ascertaining the usage of some of these proved to be quite a challenge! Interesting also to see a sample of Enid Marx’ moquette seat fabric which, in 1937, she was commissioned to design for use on the seats of London buses and tube trains.

Then, on to our own transport via a short walk through the tranquil gardens, and an overnight stop at Burford where we savoured a delicious dinner.

Next day in Oxford, and I found the redeveloped Ashmolean to be a wondrous piece of theatre. The stunning atrium, at the heart of the building, features the colossal Statue of Apollo from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. A sculptural architectural staircase is the focal point, connecting every floor around the beautiful central light-well as it rises five flights from the lower ground to the skylight above. Pausing in awe at this wondrous space, once again our group then scattered themselves amongst the many galleries

Francis Bacon/Henry Moore; Flesh and Bones, however, with over 60 works on display, proved to be the focus of our visit. This major exhibition brought together works by two giants of 20th-century western art renowned for creating unforgettable images of the human figure and revealed remarkable parallels in their work. Bacon’s three-dimensional paintings echoed Moore’s unique sculptural forms in many cases. It was particularly interesting to see, on loan from LAF, Painting 1950, by Francis Bacon, acquired by the Fund in 1951 for the sum of £220!

Homeward bound, and plenty of time to enjoy some detailed reflections on two extremely interesting days, spent happily in the most congenial of company.