The paintings and sculptures in this gallery give a taste of the diversity of 20th-century art: from expressive paintings of human figures, to abstracted still lifes, to entirely abstract compositions of colours and forms.

Since 1900, European artists have challenged the idea that creating ‘realistic’, figurative art was the ultimate achievement. Through a series of radical art movements, they redefined the concept of art, and introduced new materials and techniques. Featured artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth, and Pablo Picasso all pushed artistic boundaries in different ways, and drew inspiration from philosophy, psychology, literature, music, and traditions beyond Europe and North America.

Modern and contemporary ceramics, and silver work, are displayed in the corridor outside the gallery.


The IN FOCUS series in this gallery presents special loans and works from the Ashmolean’s collections for short periods of time. Through the rotation of works the display aims to remain exciting also for regular visitors.

The IN FOCUS artworks currently on display are drawings by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) and Alexej Jawlensky (1864–1941). Both works are acquisitions that entered the Ashmolean's collections recently.
Female Nude by Egon Schiele is drawn with energetic lines, typical of his unique style. The work shows the young artist’s deep concern with the human figure. Portrait of Mrs Kirchhoff by Alexej Jawlensky convincingly conveys the subject’s facial expression. As the wife of art collector and patron Heinrich Kirchhoff, who was a friend and supporter of Jawlensky, she featured in many of his works. 


Female Nude, 1918, by Egon Schiele (1890–1918) chalk on paper

Female Nude, 1918, by Egon Schiele (1890–1918), chalk on paper

 Portrait of Mrs Kirchoff, 1928 by Alexej Jawlensky (1864–1941), Pen, ink and watercolour on paper

Portrait of Mrs Kirchoff, 1928, by Alexej Jawlensky (1864–1941), pen, ink and watercolour on paper


The dynamism that characterize both Schiele’s nude and Jawlensky’s portrait mark the works as examples of Expressionism. Originating in early 20th-century Germany, this interdisciplinary art movement radically broke with all artistic conventions of depicting an external reality by focusing on the artists’ subjective perspectives instead. Both drawings were recently presented to the Ashmolean by Clio Kedros.