The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford announced last week (August 8) that it has made the most significant acquisition in the museum’s history. Following a successful eight-month fundraising campaign, it has raised £7.83 million to acquire Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus. Described as a ‘beautiful, beguiling and exceptionally important painting’, it was bought by an overseas buyer in 2011 for £28.35 million. However, following advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, the picture was judged to be of outstanding cultural importance and was placed under a temporary export bar.
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Dr Christopher Brown, director of the Ashmolean, praised the public’s response and the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and other foundations who have supported the campaign. ‘To have succeeded in acquiring the portrait this year, when the UK is in the international spotlight, is something of which the museum and the entire country can be proud. Its acquisition has transformed the Ashmolean’s collection and has, at a stroke, made Oxford into a leading centre for the study of Impressionist painting.’
There are only a handful of important pictures by Manet in the UK, and most of those in private hands are in France. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, who was responsible for placing the painting under the export ban, adds: ‘I congratulate the Ashmolean on its campaign and it’s wonderful that Manet’s painting will now be on public display where it can be enjoyed and appreciated by all.’ ‘Another Manet is always a great addition,’ adds Country Life’s art critic John McEwen. ‘As Renoir said: “Manet is as important to us as Cimabue or Giotto were to the Italians of the Quattrocento.”
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