Museum seeks funds to buy valuable Manet painting

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The Ashmolean Museum has launched a campaign to raise nearly £8 million to save a painting by French impressionist Edouard Manet from being sold to a foreign buyer.

The painting has been sold by the artist’s family to an unnamed foreign buyer for £28.35 million. However with tax remission it can instead be purchased by an approved UK public collection at a greatly reduced price of £7.83 million.

On the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has extended the temporary export bar on the painting until August to give the Ashmolean time to raise the necessary funds. The Committee has recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the portrait was of outstanding aesthetic importance and of great significance for the study of French painters of the period.

Director of the Ashmolean Dr Christopher Brown CBE, said, “This is one of the most important pictures of the 19th century which has been in this country since its sale following the artist’s death.

“The £7.83 million, though a substantial sum to be found, is a mere fraction of the picture’s actual worth and it would therefore be an enormous disappointment if it could not be saved for the nation.” He added, “Its purchase would, at a stroke, transform the Ashmolean’s representation of Impressionist painting.”

Student responses to the Ashmolean campaign have been mixed. One Worcester student commented, “It seems like a lot of money when the economy’s going down the pan in so many other areas.”

However another said, “I think it’s a really good thing, we need the arts and I think it’s great they’re trying to stop it going into a private collection somewhere.”

The Ashmolean is currently approaching public funding bodies, trusts, and private individuals, as well as launching a public campaign to try and raise the required funds.

The portrait’s subject is Fanny Claus (1846–77), the closest friend of Manet’s wife Suzanne Leenhoff. A concert violinist and member of the first all-women string quartet, Claus was one of Manet’s favourite sitters and a member of a close-knit group of friends who also provided the artist with models.

Claus reveals fascinating new information about the working methods of Edouard Manet, arguably one of the great masters of modern art.

The painting has only been exhibited once since it was painted. If acquired by the Ashmolean it would tour a number of UK museums in a special exhibition.

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