Past Exhibitions

Constructing Christmas
Drawings of the Renaissance and Baroque

22 October 2022 – 23 January 2023 (extended) 


The story of the birth of Jesus has become one of the most depicted subjects in Western Art and these images are still influencing how we see Christmas today. To celebrate the season, Christ Church Picture Gallery will show a selection of drawings from its permanent collection exploring the motifs – from the Nativity to the Flight to Egypt – and their enduring impact. 




Portraits of W H Auden

8 April 2022 – 17 October 2022 (extended) 


To introduce Christ Church's new acquisition – a portrait of the poet and college alumnus Wystan Hugh Auden – we assembled a selection of his likenesses in a special display. 



Impressions of Raphael
Immortality & Myth of an artist

28 May 2022 – 17 October 2022 


Raphael’s (1483-1520) artistic fame never died and the medium of print helped to spread it, while also satisfying the demand to own the master’s ideas and designs. At the centre of this exhibition will be prints from the collection of Henry Aldrich (1648-1710) whose fascination with Raphael went far beyond collecting the artist’s designs to using them for his own creative output. 




Drawing in Ink (Revisited)

21 January 2022 - 18 April 2022 (extended until 9th May 2022)


When the Picture Gallery had to close in March 2020 the exhibition on show - Drawing in Ink - was cut short. In order to give our visitors the chance to see the show and to explore the medium of pen and ink during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, we chose to bring it back. 


Drawing by Passerotti



Homecoming - Three Paintings by Kumeri Bandara

18 February 2022 - 7 March 2022


Christ Church students celebrated Arts Week in February with a number of events, shows and performances. Kumeri Bandara created three paintings inspired by her heritage for this occasion. Bandara’s paintings celebrate queer Sri Lankan women and make reference to the Sigiri frescoes and Nayomi Munaweera’s novels, Island of a Thousand Mirrors and What Lies Between Us. With her paintings, she aims to highlight issues of decolonisation and representation of queer cultures within the settings of a collection of Italian Old Masters.


Painting of two women by Kumeri Bandara


Lucy Jones: Inside Out

17 September 2021 - 19 December 2021

Lucy Jones 1996 Oil on Canvas


Dante in Christ Church

1 October 2021 - 19 December 2021

Jacopo Ligozzi - Dante watching the sunrise in the dark forest, pen and brown wash


Artists around Parma: Between Melancholy and Exuberance 
(Correggio, Parmigianino, Bertoia, Orsi) 

3 August - 18 November 2019

'A figure kneeling towards right', a drawing by Parmigianino The North-Italian city of Parma is home to one of the oldest universities in the world and is a renowned culinary centre. Its artistic school, however, remained provincial until it entered the European stage in the sixteenth century with two major artists: Correggio (1489-1534) and Parmigianino (1503-1540). They defined the ‘Parma School’ with its airy and sensuous style that also has a melancholic and foreboding quality. This dramatic duality became the precursor for the Baroque – a style that swept through Europe in the seventeenth century.

The exhibition will show 35 works from Christ Church’s own collection by artists from this school, including works by Correggio, Parmigianino, Anselmi, Bertoia and Orsi.





The Return of the Gods:
Conserving Jacopo Bertoia's 'Mars', 'Bacchus', 'Jupiter' and 'Hercules'

19 June - 3 November 2019

'Mars', 'Bacchus', 'Jupiter' and 'Hercules', four paintings by Jacopo Bertoia


Shadow and Light: Creating the Illusion of Space in Renaissance Drawing

27 March - 21 July 2019

'Samson slaying the Philistine', a drawing by Tintoretto


"Among the most celebrated paintings in Rome"
Copying Daniela da Volterra's 'Descent from the Cross' 

15 March - 17 June 2019

'Descent from the Cross', a painting after Daniele da Volterra















Transfer: Drawings as carriers of motifs and ideas in the 16th and 17th centuries

23 November 2018 - 4 March 2019 

'Transfer' exhibition poster- details from 3 Old Master drawings

The majority of Old Master drawings were stages in artistic processes, which usually led to an artwork in a more durable medium. In some rare cases the drawings showed marks and traces of these processes. All the drawings on display had such marks and the exhibition explored their meaning, while connecting the artistic creativity with the physicality of the making procedures. Included in the show were such famous works as Perugino's Head for Joseph of Arimathaea, Domenichino's monumental putto and Vasari's Procession of Pope Leo X, but deliberately also lesser known works, like Simon Vouet's off-sets of a Madonna and an adoring angel and Elisabetta Sirani's Saint Preaching from a Window.


The Nativity in Black and White 

5 December 2018 - 2 February 2019 

'The Adoration of the Magi', a print after Carlo Maratti
















Five Paintings and a Taste for Art at the Court of Charles I

26 May - 29 October 2018

'The Butcher's Shop', a painting by Annibale Carracci








Portrait of a Building: 50 Years of Christ Church Picture Gallery

29 June - 29 October 2018 

Exterior of the Picture Gallery in winter


Conserving Michelangelo

12 May - 29 June 2018

'Design for a monumental altar', a drawing by MichelangeloThe Metropolitan Museum in New York carried out crucial conservation work on one of the Gallery's Michelangelo drawings in 2017. This display showed how and why this was done, while exhibiting the drawing for the first time after its return. 










Thinking on Paper: Drawings by Old Masters

24 January - 30 April 2018 

'Four studies for Susanna or Bathsheba', a drawing by Lazzaro Tavarone











Nick Schlee: Drawing to Painting

20 January - 9 April 2018

Landscape painting by Nick Schlee













Drawing in Rome

16 September – 22 December 2017

'A nude youth seated', a drawing by Giovanni BaglioneRome attracted artists for centuries. From the late 1400s, European artists drew inspiration from the grand sculptures and architecture of antiquity. Many young artists travelled to Rome to study and sketch the city's classical ruins. Another lure was the financial and political power of the Pope and his cardinals and the artistic opportunities this offered. Artists like Raphael and Michelangelo had created masterpieces in the city, adding to Rome’s reputation. The Catholic Church’s astute understanding of the power of the image was the driving force behind Rome’s rise as an artistic centre, culminating in the sensuousness of the Roman Baroque.  This exhibition illustrated, with over thirty drawings, the different artistic forces and personalities which were part of this highly creative and at times volatile arena.












Art and the Reformation

20 October – 22 December 2017

'Portrait of Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony', a print by Dürer


Scraps of Laughter

31 May – 11 September 2017  

'Mrs Showwell, former gallery guide', a print by Thomas RowlandsonAmong the visual material in Christ Church are a number of caricatures and satires, not enough to show the full development of the genre, but interesting ‘scraps’ which gave a glimpse into the beginning of caricature and satire in Italy and how it was taken up and thrived in Britain.















Forgotten Faces: Portraits from our Storeroom

16 November 2016 - 15 May 2017

'Portrait of a young man', a painting by an unknown German artistIt is a myth that museum storerooms are full with treasures, but they often contain many portraits of the unknown, unloved and less fashionable. This display shed some light on these forgotten faces.

















Fabulous Beasts and Beautiful Creatures (drawn by Old Masters)

18 February – 29 May 2017

'Dragon, moth and other studies', a drawing by an imitator of Leonardo da VinciThe charm of animals predates the cat video and they have been subject of many old master drawings. From observation, artists rendered lions, horses, dogs and many more and created imaginary beasts from descriptions. Over thirty drawings with a variety of approaches were on show, culminating in an in-focus display of our two drawings by the pioneering British animal artist Francis Barlow (c. 1624-1704).
















For ten days only: Dü​rer's Passion

8 April – 17 April 2017

'Scenes from the passion', prints by Dürer




















Drawing in Red

26 October 2016 - 30 January 2017

'Head of a girl', a drawing by Carlo MarattiDrawing with red chalk was a technique emerging in the early 16th century. With over thirty drawings -- from Michelangelo to Bernini -- the exhibition explored the sensuousness of drawing in red. 


















Watercolours by William Thomas

19 October - 7 November 2016

Landscape painting by William ThomasAn Oxford history tutor depicted Oxford.










Changing Roles - Changing Characters: From Lady to Saint and Back

23 April - 10 October 2016

'Portrait of Beatrice d'Este', painting by an unknown Lombard artist

Many portraits, especially female portraits, were changed from representing an individual to a generic figure, usually a saint. This exhibition explored three of these altered works from the Picture Gallery's own collection.


















The Beautiful Everyday: Old Master Drawings Transforming the Mundane into Art

15 July - 17 October 2016

'A man seated on a stool among antique ruins', a drawing by an unknown Netherlandish artist

Depicting the ordinary, the 'everyday' in art is a modern concept. Art's role, one could argue, is to show the extra-ordinary, the otherworldliness. It is there to elevate rather than just observe, but, especially since the 16th century, artists started to depict the world around them. We should not believe that this is pure, unaltered reality. It is artistic interpretation making the day-to-day image-worthy. 















Filippino Lippi and drawing in Florence around 1500

3 March - 10 July 2016 

'The Triumph of Love', an unfinished painting by Filippino Lippi

Filippino Lippi's painting The Wounded Centaur is one of the highlights in Christ Church Picture Gallery. The back of that painting shows an unfinished drawing of the Triumph of Love (?) and was displayed to the public for the first time. It was at the centre of this show.









Sublimate: An exhibition of works by Christ Church's Ruskin students

28 April - 13 June 2016

Sublimate show posterThe Picture Gallery opened an exhibition of new works by Christ Church's fine arts students. The works were installed throughout the gallery.













250 Reasons for 250 Years

12 June - 31 March 2016

'Head of Giuliano de' Medici', a drawing by Tintoretto

2015 marked 250 years since General John Guise bequeathed his collection of over 200 paintings and almost 2000 drawings to Christ Church. In addition to our exhibition Undisputed Masterpieces (3 June - 5 October 2015), we celebrated the anniversary in an exciting collaborative format: an installation of 250 cards displayed in the Picture Gallery. Many joined in this project and had their thoughts displayed in the Picture Gallery.

Blank cards were sent to members of the Christ Church community -- to artists, scholars, students, and others -- with the request that they write down their thoughts about why art matters, why we should celebrate art benefactors like Guise, and why those who preserve, research, present, and create art still matter today. We installed these cards in the Picture Gallery, one for each year since the Guise bequest.










Printing Ideas and Ideas for Printing: Select examples of Venetian printing culture

23 October 2015 - 29 February 2016

'An allegory of Hercules', a drawing by Bernardo Parentino

While the Ashmolean museum showed its breathtaking exhibition of Venetian drawings this autumn, the Picture Gallery looked at another aspect of Venice's creative output - printing - the medium for spreading ideas and thought.












A View of Venice

23 October 2015 - 22 February 2016

'A panorama of Venice', a painting by an unknown Netherlandish artist

An exploration of a rare and unknown panorama of Venice from the late 16th century. This painting had not been on display in the Picture Gallery for the last twenty years, but after a fresh restoration the public was able to explore this rare panorama up close.




Undisputed Masterpieces: General John Guise's Swans - Leonardo, Michelangelo, Titian

3 June - 11 October 2015

'An archer drawing his bow', a drawing by the Master of the Parement de NarbonneIn 1765 General John Guise, a soldier and art collector, died. His wife and son had pre-deceased him and so he decided to leave his art collection to his former Oxford college, Christ Church. This extraordinary bequest celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2015. While the whole Picture Gallery is testimony to his benefaction, this exhibition drew renewed attention to his collection of drawings. They included some of the most important Old Master drawings in this country, with sheets by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bellini, Titian and many more.













Raphael's Legacy: Italian Design in the 16th Century

12 February - 1 June 2015

'Head of a weeping mother', a drawing by the studio of Giulio Romano

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known as Raphael was one of the most celebrated and influential artists. Despite his early death in 1520, at the age of only 37, his pupils and followers continued to develop their master’s tradition – the two best known are probably Giulio Romano and Marcantonio Raimondi. Their designs for prints, silver and gold vessels, paintings and tapestries dominated the artistic language of the time. This exhibition gave a glimpse into that splendour. 










Up Close and Personal - A Portrait of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey

19 March - 31 May 2015

'Cardinal Wolsey', a portrait by Sampson Strong

One of the most powerful men in England during the reign of Henry VIII, and yet there are hardly any contemporary portraits of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530). The most frequently used likeness was painted posthumously and is housed in Christ Church Hall. For the first time, it was taken down from the heights in which it usually hangs, and visitors got close to it and looked Thomas Wolsey in the eye. Wolsey's original cardinal's hat was also on display.










Mounts, Mats & Marks: How collectors took ownership of their drawings

12 September 2014 - 2 February 2015

Detail of the border of a drawing

This small display answered some often-asked questions by our visitors about inscriptions, numbers, stamps and borders on drawings. This visible history left on the paper preoccupies curators and art historians, but the detail of it can become boring to the uninitiated. In a smaller dose, however, it has the making of a detective story. These signs provide important clues in solving the mystery of how these fragile objects - sometimes just snippets of paper - have survived for so many centuries. It also shows how collectors looked after their precious objects, by pasting them on sheets of paper or sticking them in albums and marking them against theft.

This ‘archaeology of drawings’ also included wine and grease stains (Jacone/Carracci) and colour splashes (Tintoretto) left by the artists themselves, but this did not deter collectors from prizing them very highly. Inscriptions placed on the sheets must also be distinguished and handwritings compared. Artist’s names are usually not signatures by the artists themselves, but added later by a different hand. Old Master drawings are hardly ever signed, often they were part of the working process and destined to remain in the workshop. They were not regarded as stand-alone works of art. But as soon as they became highly coveted collectables in the 16th century, they were inscribed by art dealers and collectors, to proudly mark them as being by a distinguished master. In some cases the artist’s names added were wishful thinking rather than actual fact and sometimes these inscriptions were deliberately fraudulent.  By tracing back the signs which were left on Old Master drawings and following these markings - elaborate gilded borders, simple pen and ink lines, inscriptions and specially designed stamps – one can reveal the people behind these collections, from artists like Giorgio Vasari and Sir Peter Lely to clergymen, dealers, expert connoisseurs and librarians and they also allow one to establish the authenticity of a work.



Goddesses: Designing Female Beauty in the Renaissance and Baroque

12 September - 2 February 2015

Detail from 'The Three Graces', a drawing by Guercino

How does one depict Venus, the goddess of love? What does Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, look like or Diana, the goddess of the hunt? How do these divine figures relate to the appearance of mortal females? These are questions which lead artists to create faultless faces and appearances and to invent an ideal beauty in the taste of their time. This is not gender specific – male as well as female ideals were pursued, but male models from which to study and then ultimately create an ideal body or face were usually more easily available. Proportion studies, for example, were mainly calculated with male figures in mind. A female proportion study from the 16th century by the Italian artist Talpino is the only one of its kind and was included in the exhibition. Prints by the German master Albrecht Dürer show his idea of the ideal female form. It differs from that of Talpino, but it is also based on detailed proportion studies, e.g. the figure of Venus in The Dream of the Idler, or the personification of Luck. An engraving of four witches, also by Dürer, was displayed next to drawings of the three Graces by Guercino and an English artist, Charles Beale the Younger, who looks almost too closely at the female anatomy. Other drawings included mythological figures of Venus, Diana, Minerva and Hebe, the goddess of youth. A number of idealised female faces showed the variety of the subject and the inventiveness of the artists and concluded with the self-portrait of the Bolognese artist Elisabetta Sirani, in which individual and idealised features merge.



Sean Scully Encounters: A New Master among Old Masters

30 May - 31 August 2014

'Falling Dark', a painting by Sean Scully

Sean Scully (born 1945 in Dublin) has been described as the ‘greatest living abstract painter’. He is best known for his monumental oil paintings, but his watercolours, prints and photographs—though less known—are equally powerful and significant.

Scully abandoned figurative work in the 1960s and has since developed an iconic visual language of strips and blocks. He has explored these forms in a variety of combinations, rhythms, colours and media, and the resulting range is breathtaking.  His work is represented in major museums around the world and is regularly displayed internationally in solo exhibitions.

In this, his first exhibition in Oxford, eleven paintings and thirty-three prints by Scully will be on view. The physical power and materiality of his works will be in direct dialogue with the masterpieces of the 16th century from the Christ Church collection: Annibale Carracci’s Butcher’s Shop will be inches away from Scully’s Dark Wall, Jacopo Bassano’s Christ Crowned with Thorns in close proximity to Scully’s Abend, and Scully’s Yellow Robe Red Figure will speak to Jacopo Bertoia’s Mars, Hercules, Bacchus, and Jupiter.

Like Dürer, Rembrandt and Goya, Scully’s prints developed in parallel to his painterly work. Among his prints on display will be Heart of Darkness, Ten Towers, Desire, and Narcissus.

The exhibition was curated by Jacqueline Thalmann and Kelly Grovier with the full support of Sean Scully and his New York studio, as well as with the generous help of Timothy Taylor Gallery. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

Sean Scully and Kelly Grovier will be in Conversation in the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre at Christ Church, Oxford, on the 30th May 2014 at 5.00pm.

Sean Scully, Falling Dark, 2005