Visual arts: Behind the scenes at the museum

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The Schilling Bequest of Old Masters is an unassuming collection which has found a temporary home in a corner of the British Museum

1997 has been a good year for the National Art Collections Fund. They began in January with Treasures for Everyone, a triumphant celebration of art that they have helped to save for the nation, an exhibition that was widely and rightly admired. Then, in February, the good news continued when the magnificent Denis Mahon Collection of 17th- and 18th-century Italian paintings went on view at the National Gallery. Seventy six examples of Baroque art at its best which Mahon has said will be bequeathed to the Fund in keeping for the nation.

These go on show at the National Gallery of Scotland in a couple of weeks, but meanwhile, in London, there's further, albeit more modest, evidence of the Fund's activities on behalf of our cultural well-being. The Schilling Bequest of Old Master Drawings is the sort of low key, rather academic, exhibition which is easily overshadowed by the grandeur of Mahon, but it's worth tracking down in room 90 of the British Museum, and once again we have the NACF to thank for orchestrating the bequest.

The collection numbers some 100 or so drawings assembled by the German emigre Edmund Schilling in the 1940s and '50s. Like Mahon he was a scholar, an expert on his subject, and like him he was collecting at a time when his speciality, in this case early Northern, especially German, Renaissance drawings, were deemed unfashionable in the wider world.

There's nothing by Durer, oddly, but his pupils Baldung and Beham are well represented, as are Cranach father and son and, thanks to the NACF, they all belong to the nation and can be seen at the BM until the end of the year.

The Schilling Bequest of Old Master drawings, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London W1 (0171-636 1555) to 4 Jan

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