Friday, June 6, 2008

Today In History; First Public Museum Opens

1683: The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, connected with Oxford University, is the first public museum of Britain. Named after Elias Ashmole, who donated his personal collection, the museum gave the public the opportunity to view antique coins, books, and engravings - as well as geological and zoological specimens - for the first time.

Today the museum is well known for its collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of artists who rebelled against the notions of art of their time (1849). Rather than idealizing beauty, as their contemporaries did, the Pre-Raphaelites tried to reproduce the details and colors of the real-life models and landscapes they used as a basis for their paintings and illustrations. Often the subjects of their paintings were mythic, poetic, or Biblical scenes, such as Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon (Burne-Jones, 1898).

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