Thought to be the first western depictions ever made of an Australian kangaroo and dingo, a pair of 18th century oil paintings, made by artist George Stubbs in important records of Captain James Cook’s epic Endeavour Voyage of Discovery, will be bought by the National Maritime Museum following a £1.5 million donation.
Kongouro from New Holland and Portrait of a Large Dog were banned from leaving the country under the terms of a government private export bar when they were sold to a non-UK buyer late last year. First shown in London in 1773, they are now expected to reappear at the museum’s Queen’s House next summer.
© Private Collection, Courtesy of Nevill Keating Pictures Ltd
Eyal Ofer, an Israeli shipping and real estate magnate whose father, Sammy, gave £20 million to the museum in 2008, pronounced himself “delighted” to save the paintings through his Family Foundation.
“My family has a long connection with this great maritime institution,” he said, having also given more than £3.3 million to the Cutty Sark restoration campaign three years ago.
“These paintings are a landmark in Britain’s history of maritime exploration and Captain Cook’s voyages.
“I look forward to seeing them being discovered, enjoyed and studied by as wide a public audience as possible.”
The paintings will play a key role in the museum’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Cook’s journey of discovery in 2018, with the gallery space inside the house, which marks its 400th anniversary in 2016, renamed The Eyal Ofer Gallery.
Carole Souter, the head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave £3 million to the fundraising bid, said plans to tour Kongouro – the less fragile painting – would take in “places with links to Captain Cook”.
The Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, also praised the “incredible generosity” of the public and fellow funders The Monument Trust and the Art Fund.
Ofer’s Foundation gifted £10 million to the development of Tate Modern during the summer.
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