The Heritage Lottery Fund gives lead support to save Manet's Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus

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The Heritage Lottery Fund gives lead support to save Manet's Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus
Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, 1868. Oil on canvas, 111 x 70 cm. Provenance: Manet’s studio sale, 4-5 February 1884, lot 19, bought by John Singer Sargent; and by descent in the family of his sister. Exhibited: Manet at Work, National Gallery, London, 1983, no. 11.

LONDON.- The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced its lead support of the Ashmolean Museum’s campaign to save Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, 1868, for the public with a major grant of £5.9 million. Since launching the campaign in February, the Ashmolean has also been awarded a significant grant from The Art Fund of £750,000, along with £200,000 of gifts from individuals and The Friends of the Ashmolean.

The painting has been sold to a foreign buyer for £28.35 million but, under a private treaty sale, with tax remission it can be purchased by an approved UK public collection at the greatly reduced price of £7.83 million. The Ashmolean has until 7 August 2012, before the export bar ends, to raise the remaining £908,000 to acquire the painting. The portrait is a preparatory study for Le Balcon (1868–9) now in the Musée d’Orsay - one of the key images of the Impressionist movement. Having previously been exhibited only once since it was painted, it is currently on display in the Museum’s Impressionist Gallery

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.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said, “Manet’s Mlle Claus is a beautiful, beguiling and exceptionally important painting: it really must remain in this country and on public view. So we’re delighted to be supporting the Ashmolean Museum’s public appeal with a major Art Fund grant – indeed one of our largest ever – and would urge other individuals and institutions to follow suit if they possibly can.”

Manet was one of the greatest painters of the 19th century and his influence on the art world continues today. John Singer Sargent, who bought Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus at Manet's studio sale in 1884, was described as a disciple of Manet, and without his example, Sargent’s portraits would have been very different. From the 1880s until World War I, most progressive portrait painters were strongly influenced by Manet's work: Wilson Steer, Walter Sickert, Henry Tonks, Sir John Lavery, Sir William Orpen. Roger Fry's exhibition of 'Manet and the Post-Impressionists' (1911) firmly established Manet's reputation as the painter of modern life. Fry emphasised the purely pictorial qualities of Manet's art, but the social and psychological aspects were equally important to later artists such as Stanley Spencer and Lucian Freud.

The Ashmolean is the country’s most visited museum outside London, with over 1 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.

Dr Christopher Brown CBE, 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. We are delighted with the remarkable amount of public support, which the campaign has received so far. 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. 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.”

Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “The Ashmolean is now tantalisingly close to being able to acquire this exceptional painting thanks to the generosity of the many people who have contributed directly, or through the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Art Fund. The Museum has also been able to take advantage of tax breaks that will help them buy the painting at a greatly reduced price. I would like to offer my wholehearted support for the public appeal; if anyone is in a position to contribute, they will be helping to enrich the lives of visitors to the Ashmolean for countless generations to come.”

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