8 august 2012

Saved by the public: Ashmolean to keep Manet portrait

University | Arts

Mlle Claus
Mademoiselle Claus was the closest friend of Manet’s wife Suzanne Leenhoff. (credit: Department of Culture, Media and Sport)

The Ashmolean Museum has succeeded in raising £7.83 million to acquire Edouard Manet's Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus and keep it in the United Kingdom.

The purchase followed an eight-month campaign that received donations from hundreds of members of the public. The portrait is the most significant purchase in the Ashmolean's history.

The painting was purchased by a foreign buyer in 2011 for £28.4 million. Following advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, the picture was judged to be of outstanding cultural importance and was placed under a temporary export bar until 7 August 2012 by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. Under the terms of a private treaty sale, the painting was made available to a British public institution for 27% of its market value.

Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, said, 'The public's response to the campaign for the Manet has been overwhelming. The Museum is enormously grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, other foundations and many individuals who contributed so generously and helped us save Manet for the public.

'To have succeeded in acquiring the portrait this year, when the UK is in the international spotlight, is something of which the Museum and the entire country can be proud. This is one of the most important pictures of the 19th century which has been in Britain since its sale following the artist’s death in 1884. Its acquisition has transformed the Ashmolean's collection and has at a stroke made Oxford into a leading centre for the study of Impressionist painting.'

To have succeeded in acquiring the portrait this year, when the UK is in the international spotlight, is something of which the Museum and the entire country can be proud.

Dr Christopher Brown CBE

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said, 'I am delighted that the temporary export bar I placed on the painting has resulted in the Ashmolean being able to acquire this fantastic work by one of the greatest painters of the 19th Century. I congratulate the Ashmolean on their campaign and it's wonderful that Manet's painting will now be on public display where it can be enjoyed and appreciated by all'

The campaign has received lead support of £5.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and a grant of £850,000 from The Art Fund. The final £1,080,000 was contributed via grants and donations from trusts, foundations and private individuals. In total, 1,048 people made a gift in response to the public appeal, ranging from £1.50 to £10,000. 

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said, 'The Ashmolean deserves a gold medal for reaching the finish line and securing Manet's Mademoiselle Claus. Thanks to an imaginative fundraising campaign this elegant portrait will remain here in the UK in perpetuity. This is a proud moment for everyone involved but without a doubt the real credit goes to the Museum for its tenacity and vision.'

Manet was one of the greatest painters of the 19th Century, yet there are now remarkably few Manets in private collections, almost all in France, and there are only a handful of important pictures by Manet in the United Kingdom.