The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford Launches a Campaign to Save a Manet

26/02/12 – Museum – Oxford, Ashmolean Museum – We are all aware of the tight budgets inflicted on English museums, hampering their acquisitions, especially since the National Gallery in London, currently engaged in raising the funds needed to acquire the second Titian from the Duke of Sutherland’s collection (see news item of 4/2/09), is out of the running for a while.

1. Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Portrait of Fanny Claus, 1868
Oil on Canvas - 111 x 70 cm
Temporary export bar from the United Kingdom
Photo : Ashmolean Museum

2. Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Le Balcon, 1868-1869
Oil on Canvas - 169 x 125 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
Photo : RMNGP/H. Lewandowski

Thus, British establishments need to find other solutions to stop the outflow of masterpieces from England. The Ashmolean Museum has therefore launched a public fundraising campaign for the acquisition of the Portrait of Fanny Claus (ill. 1), a preparatory study for Le Balcon at the Musée d’Orsay (ill. 2). The painting, sold to a private foreign collector for £28.35 million, has a temporary export bar preventing it from leaving the United Kingdom until August 2012, a delay which was extended in order to give the museum time to purchase it. The amount needed is quite low, significantly below market value, since the corresponding tax deductions granted the seller bring it down to £7.83 million, that is about one-fourth of its true price.

Fanny Claus, a violinist and friend of Manet and his wife Suzanne, future wife of the painter Pierre Prins (Manet was a witness at their wedding), died from tuberculosis at the age of 30, that is nine years after the canvas was painted. She is represented sitting here whereas in the final work, she is seen standing on the right, with the chair occupied by Berthe Morisot and the landscapist Antoine Guillemet standing in back.
The importance of this large study, never before shown to the public – except for a 1983 exhibition in London – is obvious, due to its quality, the role it plays in the elaboration of a major icon of Impressionism as well as for its history since it was acquired in 1884 by John Singer Sargent directly from the studio. England’s failure to add such a work, at such a low price, to a public collection, the same year when it is holding the Olympic Games at enormous expense, would be a very negative sign of the state of its museums. While awaiting its fate, the painting is exhibited, at least until August 2012, in gallery 65, on the third floor of the Ashmolean Museum.

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Didier Rykner, lundi 27 février 2012

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