Frith painting returns to Harrogate in £115,000 deal

By Culture24 Staff | 26 January 2009
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A picture of an oil painting in dark colours showing a social scene from the Victorian era

The Picture View has returned to Harrogate after more than a century. Pic courtesy The Art Fund

The last major work by Victorian painter William Frith has returned to his former hometown of Harrogate in a £115,000 acquisition aided by cash boosts from major charity funding bodies.

The Private View, an 1881 picture featuring Oscar Wilde and Lily Langtry, will go on display at the Mercer Art Gallery, on the site of the town theatre where both thespian leading lights once performed.

“Since Frith was Harrogate’s most famous local artist, The Art Fund is delighted that this important work is now on display at the Mercer for everyone to enjoy,” said Art Fund Director David Barrie.

The large-scale oil sketch depicts celebrities from all walks of Victorian life as they view paintings at the Royal Academy exhibition of the year, including English painter and sculptor Frederick Lord Leighton and noted Victorian playwright Robert Browning.

The Art Fund provided £73,923 of the auction price, with a further £46,737 boost from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, £10,663 from the Friends of the Mercer Art Gallery and other donations.

The gallery, where visitors originally paid a shilling to see Frith’s work, already possesses an important collection of his pieces, and staged the first major retrospective of his career for more than 50 years in 2007.

The Private View goes on display as part of Harrogate Borough Council’s public art collection at the Mercer Art Gallery from Friday (February 27 2009) until March 29 2009.

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