From Raphael to Austen, from fish and chips to the Perch, here’s some vital sustenance for the lively mind.

What not to miss in Oxford this summerRaphael’s The Three Graces

By Richard Lofthouse

You expect Oxford Today to curate your trip to the University, so with no hesitation we recommend as a priority that you book £12.00 tickets to see the Ashmolean’s Raphael, the Drawings which runs until 17 September. The Financial Times described the show as ‘astoundingly beautiful’ and we can corroborate that. In all, 127 drawings are displayed, not just from the Ashmolean’s own fantastic collection but from the Albertina and loans from other international collections including the Louvre, the Uffizi and Her Majesty the Queen. Drawings include the exquisite Head of a Muse, which broke records when auctioned at Christies in 2009, as well as the sublime Heads and Hands of two Apostles, considered to be the finest drawing Raphael ever made.

What not to miss in Oxford this summerA royalty cheque from Austen’s publisher John Murray following the publication of Emma

Having palpitated over Raphael we’d recommend you to walk across to the Bodleian’s swish and sumptuous new Weston Library to enjoy a fresh peek into the life and mind of Jane Austen. It’s two centuries since this doyenne of the character novel was laid to rest, and you’d think there would be nothing new to say about her. Not so, according to the Bodleian’s curators. The present collection of materials, never previously seen together, reveals her as a businesswoman with ambition and a taste for risk, as well as a writer partly defined by contemporary war. The exhibition opens on 23 June.

What not to miss in Oxford this summerAfter delving into Jane Austen’s mind, you can have a look at some real brains. Pop up the road to the Museum of Natural History and up to the gallery on the first floor, to walk through Brain Diaries: Modern Neuroscience in Action. This is much friendlier than it sounds. The point is made that our brains change markedly through our lives. But the point is also made that humans have unusually large brains, which may well explain some of our success within evolution, as a species. There are other events around this exhibition that continues until the end of the year, but the exhibition itself is terrific.

Now for something a bit different: Portraits from a Chip Shop by Kazem Hakimi, which runs until July 2 and is free and hosted in two city centre locations, Modern Art Oxford (30 Pembroke Street) and The Old Fire Station (40 St George Street). Hakimi’s work comprises portraits of visitors to a popular fish and chip shop on the Iffley Road. As such we get a collective portrait of a diverse and dignified community of Oxford locals. 

What not to miss in Oxford this summerView towards Oxford across the river from Binsey, near The Perch

Apart from these indoor activities we’d recommend as baseline activities that might too easily be overlooked: walking the University Parks and the Cherwell River that adjoins it; hiring a punt whether at Magdalen Bridge or the Cherwell Boat House at the end of Bardwell Road in North Oxford; and possibly making the longer walk across Port Meadow to The Perch or further still to The Trout. Both pubs beloved of generations of students have changed management in recent years and in our view The Perch on Binsey Lane has in particular come up shiny, with a quality food offering and some fine India Pale Ales, in keeping with the micro-brewery trend of our times but complemented by a lovely garden and loads of space for kids too.

Raphael’s Three Graces reproduced courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust; Jane Austen cheque courtesy of the National Library of Scotland; coronal section through the brain model photo Professor Michael R Peres, Wellcome Images; neuroscientist explaining  research, by Andrew Walmsley; view towards Oxford across the river from Binsey by Richard Lofthouse.

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