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Making Space for Art: Ben Thomas

Making Space for Art: Ben Thomas on Raphael

  • Date30 Nov 2021
  • Reading time 1min

As part of the Making Space for Art series, available here as a recording and transcript, Dr Ben Thomas discusses co-curating the Ashmolean exhibition Raphael: The Drawings in a talk entitled Curating Raphael: Invention and Eloquence.

The concerns of art historians in discussing the drawings of Raphael have traditionally been project-oriented, including the identification of sequences of studies relating to public and private commissions, and the categorisation of different types of drawings within a systematic design process leading towards a finished art work. Questions of attribution, dating and function have been of fundamental importance.

Instead, the Ashmolean exhibition Raphael: The Drawings, curated by Ben Thomas and Catherine Whistler in 2017, proposed a complementary approach, shifting the ground from the linear and teleological consideration of drawings in relation to paintings to an exploration of the gestural act of drawing and of the values inherent to disegno. We argued for Raphael’s heightened awareness of the visual and material eloquence of drawing in a rhetorically alert and sophisticated culture. Above all we emphasised the experimental, inventive and affective qualities of his drawings.

This paper reflects on the experience of co-curating Raphael: The Drawings, and will consider reactions to the innovative approach it proposed, and indicate possible new avenues for research.

Dr Ben Thomas is Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Kent. He was co-curator of the exhibition Raphael: The Drawings at the Ashmolean Museum in 2017, described by The Financial Times as ‘a game-changing presentation of graphic art’ and winner of the Apollo Magazine ‘exhibition of the year’ award. Thomas has published widely on a range of art historical topics including Renaissance art, the history of collecting, the history of printmaking, nineteenth-century sculpture and contemporary art.

Introduced by Professor Eric Robertson (Royal Holloway). 

This talk was delivered on 9 May 2018. 

Please click on the video to listen to the talk. 

You can view a transcript here

These talks were recorded for Royal Holloway by Backdoor Broadcasting. (Image used for video by Jonathan Farber.)

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