The Ashmolean announced this morning that it has raised enough money to purchase Joseph Turner’s painting ‘The High Street, Oxford’ (1810). The work is considered a major piece in Turner’s output. The museum previously had the piece on loan from a private collection. The piece had been offered to the nation in leiu of £3.5 million of inheritance tax, but the museum needed to raise a further £860,000 to permanently incorporate the painting into the museum’s art collection.
The fundraising target was met just four weeks after the museum announced their intention to purchase the painting. Donations came from a variety of sources, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Art Fund, The Friends and Patrons of the Ashmolean, with £60,000 worth of donations from the public at large. Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean, gave this comment: “The Museum has been overwhelmed by public support. With well over 800 people contributing to the appeal, it is clear that the local community, as well as visitors to the Museum from across the world, feel that this picture, the greatest painting of the city ever made, must remain on show in a public museum in Oxford.
“We are so grateful to the members of the public who have made donations; to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund; and to the Friends and Patrons of the Museum. There are big plans for the painting once we acquire it. It will be lent to regional museums so as many people as possible from the surrounding area will be able to see it; it will be at the heart of a new series of educational activities for schools and young people; and, not least, it will have pride of place in the Museum’s Nineteenth Century Gallery which will be refurbished and reopened in early 2016.”
Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East England, expressed his satisfaction at the Ashmolean’s successful bid: “We’re delighted that the public and museum visitors have donated so generously and enabled the Ashmolean to meet their target so quickly – this just shows how important this painting is. Congratulations to everyone involved.”
Atalanta Arden Miller, an undergraduate studying at the Ruskin School of Art, emphasised the importance of the Ashmolean to art students at the university: “I hope this acquisition will encourage more students to come to the Ashmolean and explore the huge collection of his work held in the print room. The Ashmolean’s collection has always been inspiring to Oxford students. ‘The ashmolean print room is the most important tool in Oxford for an artist- working first hand from the drawings is like getting a one to one lesson from Michelangelo or Raphael.”
Over the summer, the painting will be available to view in the welcome space of the Ashmolean.