When it was announced that Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus had been bought by a foreign buyer for £28.35 million, the last hope for the painting to remain on public display was for an approved UK public collection to raise £7.83 million to take advantage of tax remission.
The Ashmolean Museum took on this tough challenge, aiming to raise the amount before August 7 2012, at which point the temporary export bar placed on the sale would end and the painting would be transferred to the private buyer.
The campaign gathered pace and now, thanks to a major grant of £5.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), a grant of £750,000 from The Art Fund and £200,000 from individuals and The Friends of the Ashmolean, less than £1 million is required to acquire the 1868 painting. More than 1600 people have also signed a petition in support of the Ashmolean’s efforts.
Dr Christopher Brown, director of the Ashmolean, said: ‘We are extremely grateful to the HLF for their lead support and to The Art Fund and individual donors for their generosity. This is a unique opportunity for a British museum to acquire this important work. If we are successful, it will transform the Ashmolean’s holdings of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, making Oxford one of the leading centres for the study of 19th Century French painting, for students, scholars and the wider public.’
The Ashmolean is the country’s most visited museum outside London, with over one million people visiting per year. If acquired by the museum, Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus will be the focus of a broad range of public events and activities, as well as a special touring exhibition to museums across the UK, attracting a greater and more diverse audience to see the painting and to learn more about its wider cultural and historical significance. The painting is currently in the Ashmolean and is already attracting proving a hit with visitors.
Dr Brown explained: ‘Since it has been on display, we have organised a series of workshops with schools, curator-led talks and lectures, which have been most popular with all age groups. This has helped us to develop a number of exciting plans for the future that include touring the painting and placing it at the heart of our learning programme. If you have not already seen it I urge you to do so.'
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: ‘This study of a young woman in repose is extraordinary: luminous, beautiful, a real masterclass in brushstroke technique. The Heritage Lottery Fund is pleased to be playing a significant role in helping the Ashmolean secure Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, particularly as it is unlikely that a work of this calibre will become available again at such a competitive price. We hope the Museum succeeds in its campaign to keep the painting in this country and look forward to seeing it used to help more people learn about the Impressionist movement.’
Anyone interested can sign the petition or donate to the campaign here.