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Artists have long travelled the world, both as scientific recorders of newly explored landscapes, flora and fauna, and in search of fresh visual material to wow their fickle audiences. Before the Grand Tour was at its height in the C18, they were employed as topographical draughtsmen for surveying and military purposes. They increasingly travelled to Italy and Greece to study from the ‘fountain-head’ of classical art, sometimes funded by rich patrons. Women also travelled far more than one might expect: Katherine Read trained in Rome, Ann Damer went to Spain and Italy, while the careers of Angelica Kauffmann, Maria Cosway and Rosalba Carriera spanned Europe.

Increasingly from the C18 artists travelled further afield, to Asia, Australia and the Americas, assisted by Empire and trade links, diplomatic and religious missions. Increasing interest in representing scriptural subjects more accurately also drew artists such as Holman Hunt towards the Middle East and Egypt, while Edward Lear was an endlessly restless traveller to Greece, Egypt, India and Ceylon.

The Ashmolean collections offer fascinating evidence of what they saw on their travels as they encountered new cultures, new religions and new environments. From sketches taken on the spot to finished compositions, these works record the wonders they encountered.

Curator: Dr Caroline Palmer

Framed works on paper and a selection of sketchbooks