"Groundswell of support" for £12.5 million last surviving Van Dyck portrait to stay in Britain

By Culture24 Reporter | 04 February 2014

The Art Fund and the National Portrait Gallery will need to raise more than £9 million in five months if they are to keep Van Dyck's last self-portrait in Britain

A photo of people looking at a circular self-portrait in oil of an artist inside an art gallery
Students from the Prince's Drawing Clubs scrutinise the Self-Portrait of Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1640-1) at the National Portrait Gallery, London© Jorge Herrera
A government export bar on the last surviving self-portrait of Sir Anthony Van Dyck is expected to be extended beyond its Valentine’s Day deadline, with organisers behind the £12.5 million fundraising bid describing a “groundswell of support” for plans which would see the work given to the National Portrait Gallery before touring the country.

Self-Portrait, from 1640, was prevented from being sold to overseas buyers last November. Since then, the gallery and the Art Fund say they have raised more than £3.2 million, including an initial £1.2 million joint investment the two organisations.

“The most common gift we have received from members of the public is £10, which goes to show that gifts in all amounts make a huge difference and continue to be vital in our efforts to save this outstanding self-portrait for the nation,” said Sandy Nairne, the Director of the Gallery, praising a £1 million donation from the Monument Trust as “incredibly generous”.

“Every pound really counts in helping to make it possible to keep this great painting on public view.”

Students from the Prince’s Drawing Clubs, a mentoring programme encouraging children between 10 and 18 to draw, have copied the portrait from its position on the second floor of the gallery.

‘The portrait has charm,” commented one 11-year-old.

“I liked the contrast between his face and that background.

“He had made good colour choices and the eyes were really eye catching.”

The private collector who has bought the work may be gratified by the critique, but Stephen Deuchar, the director of the Art Fund, believes the potential five-month extension of the bar could see enough money raised to keep the painting in Britain.

“There is a groundswell of support for the campaign to stop Van Dyck’s final self-portrait from leaving the country and to put it on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery,” he said.

“Given the achievements of the past 10 weeks, this could turn out to be the Art Fund’s most successful ever public campaign to save a work of art since our foundation in 1903.

“But the fight is not yet won, and we must continue to fundraise from all quarters to prevent this work from slipping from our grasp.”

The painting has spent nearly 400 years in a private British collection.

  • Visit www.savevandyck.org for more, and use the hashtag #savevandyck on Twitter. The portrait's three-year tour will visit Turner Contemporary, Margate, Manchester Art Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

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