An “overwhelming” show of public support has helped keep Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus – an exquisite 19th century painting worth more than £28 million – in Britain.
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The view from a Boulogne balcony, based on a Goya piece and considered a key example of Impressionism, has a new home at the Ashmolean Museum in the culmination of an eight-month fundraising campaign.
The Oxford venue had been offered the painting for £7.83 million under the terms of a private treaty sale offering it to a British public institution of 27% of its market value.
“This is one of the most important pictures of the 19th century, which has been in Britain since its sale following the artist’s death in 1884,” announced Ashmolean Director Dr Christopher Brown, who said the museum was “enormously grateful” for the donations.
“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.
“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.”
Manet was spending the summer with his family when he created the first version of Le Balcon in 1868, encapsulating the series of portraits the often-controversial artist made of his close friends and family from the late 1860s onwards.
Fanny Claus, a concert violinist and model for Manet who was also his wife’s best friend, is the subject of the painting. A member of the first all-women string quartet, she died of tuberculosis eight years later, at the age of 30.
Perhaps the most significant consequence of the sale is an agreement to send the work on a tour of galleries and museums in 2013. Only a handful of important Manet paintings are currently held in domestic collections.
The Heritage Lottery Fund, which contributed £5.9 million to the cause, praised the Ashmolean’s “tenacity and vision”.
Stephen Deuchar, the Art Fund Director who oversaw a grant of £850,000 toward the purchase, called the work a “beautiful, beguiling and exceptionally important painting.”