Outstanding Cultural Asset Saved For The Nation

Outstanding Cultural Asset Saved For The Nation

The Bowes Museum is delighted to announce that it has secured funding from Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and a number of private donors, totalling £2,290,650, to acquire an outstanding 15th century painting deemed an important British cultural asset and initiating a partnership with York Art Gallery and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

In November 2015, the Government placed a temporary export bar on the painting, St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, attributed to the workshop of Dieric Bouts the Elder, to allow the opportunity for it to remain in the UK. It is of exceptional interest due to its close associations with Dieric Bouts, regarded as one of the leading Netherlandish painters of his time, and the subject matter it depicts. Both these elements are extremely rare, and comparable examples do not exist in the UK.

The patterned tiles lead the viewer’s eye through the composition, to the colonnade and landscape beyond. The face of St. Luke, which portrays both age and character, displays the key characteristics associated with Bouts’ portraiture. The expensive damask cloth of honour is exquisitely rendered, as are the tiled floor and marble columns. The detailed landscape beyond the colonnade, showing a walled town receding into a mountainous horizon, demonstrates why Bouts is viewed as one of the most important early Netherlandish landscape painters.

The majority of the funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, awarded The Bowes Museum £1.99million.

The Museum will lead on the project and acquire the painting before embarking on an innovative partnership with York Art Gallery and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery to deliver a diverse and exciting activity programme surrounding the painting, across the three venues, with each partner focusing on different aspects of the programme and sharing learning. All three galleries have excellent Old Master collections and the acquisition of this major painting allows each to highlight their holding of early Netherlandish painting while reaching different audiences across the country.

Adrian Jenkins, Director of The Bowes Museum, said: “During the 15th century, Netherlandish paintings were admired all over Europe for their visual sophistication, imagination and invention, and those by Bouts and his workshop were no exception. This work exhibits all of those characteristics and we are extremely pleased to have secured its long term future in the UK with the help of the Art Fund and HLF.”

The painting will also become the focus of a scientific investigation and conservation project, led by staff at the National Gallery, after which it will be displayed at The Bowes Museum before travelling back to the National Gallery for display. It will then spend a longer period at each of the partner galleries and form the basis of exciting activity programmes.

Culture and Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: "It's fantastic news that this stunning painting will remain in the UK for the public to see. I'm delighted that the export deferral has allowed this outstanding work of art to find a new home at The Bowes Museum."

Laura Pye, Head of Culture at Bristol City Council, said: “We are thrilled to be welcoming Bouts’ St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child to Bristol in 2018. High profile loans of this nature help us to reinvigorate our galleries and provide our visitors with magnificent new art to enjoy. I’m looking forward to seeing the masterpiece alongside our own excellent Old Masters collection and developing new ways for communities in Bristol to participate in our events programme.”

Laura Turner, Senior Curator of Art and Science at York Museums Trust, said: “We are thrilled that Bouts’ St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child will remain in the UK. With such a strong collection of Old Masters at York Art Gallery, we have an affinity with the work and consider it to be of great national importance.

“We look forward to receiving the loan in 2018 and introducing a programme of events at York Art Gallery that will celebrate the acquisition and share more information about the painting with the public.”

The exhibiting of the painting, together with the outcomes of research and the programme of activities, will aim to keep the public fully informed about the artist, the artwork and the context, to engage interest and encourage participation.

At the end of the long-term project the painting will be housed at The Bowes Museum, where it will become part of the permanent collection.

As well as making a significant financial contribution to the acquisition, the Art Fund was able to further support through acting as the purchaser, and then making a gift of the work to The Bowes Museum. This ensured that the work could be purchased without additional tax, meaning that the museum could acquire the work for a significantly reduced price.

“The assistance of the Art Fund in supporting the Bowes in this practical way demonstrates how their support for UK Galleries and Museums goes beyond straightforward financial support,” added Mr Jenkins.

Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director, said: “The art historical significance of this unusual subject is considerable; indeed there is nothing like it in any other UK collection. It's a great coup for The Bowes Museum, and we were happy to help. We are particularly supportive of their plan to show the work at other UK museums, as well as at the Bowes, in the years to come.”

Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “We’re delighted to support this project which will not only save an important cultural asset for the nation, but also enable people across County Durham, York, Bristol, and further afield to explore the story behind the painting and enjoy it for generations to come.”


Notes to editors:

For further information, images or interviews please contact:

Sheila Dixon, sheila.dixon@thebowesmuseum.org.uk, tel 01833 694616 or John Diviney, jdiviney@brunswickgroup.com, tel 020 7396 5366.

About The Bowes Museum

  • The Bowes Museum was created over 100 years ago by an extraordinary couple, John and Joséphine Bowes. Together they built up the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the North of England and constructed a magnificent building to house them in. The collection contains thousands of objects including furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and many other items covering an extensive range of European styles and periods.
  • The Bowes Museum receives a core funding grant from Durham County Council and as a Major Portfolio Museum, receives support from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport through the Arts Council England’s Renaissance programme. Additional revenue funding specifically for the Museum’s acclaimed exhibition programme is provided by The John Ellerman Foundation and The Friends of The Bowes Museum.
  • The Bowes Museum is a member of the Discover Durham partnership of attractions. Our commitment is to promote Durham as an exciting and vibrant group travel destination and to provide the travel trade with a professional and knowledgeable service: hotline number 0191 301 8531, www.discoverdurham.co.uk

About York Art Gallery

When it reopened in summer 2015 York Art Gallery had more than 60 per cent extra space, including a suite of three galleries to show ambitious and high profile exhibitions and extra learning space.

The development also included:

  • The creation of the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) displaying the biggest collection of British Studio Ceramics in the UK.
  • A second entrance at the rear of the gallery into a new Artists’ Garden linking to the York Museum Gardens.
  • Better visitor facilities including a new cafe, shop, toilets and lift
  • Much improved storage for the collections.

The project has been funded by numerous grants and donations, including a private legacy of £2 million and a grant from the National Lottery through Arts Council England of £3.5 million.

The transformation saw York Art Gallery become a finalist in the Art Fund Museum of the Year award 2016.

About Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

  • Discover Bristol’s world-class collections, from dinosaurs and gems to magnificent fine art and Egyptian artefacts. Twenty galleries tell the story of our world in every display from the beginning of time to the present day. Explore Natural History, ancient civilisations, archaeology and much more. bristolmuseums.org.uk

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

  • Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery

About Art Fund

  • Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, including ARTIST ROOMS and the 2013-18 Aspire tour of Tate’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators.
  • Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 122,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 230 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes the annual Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year (won by The Whitworth, Manchester, in 2015), a publications programme and a range of digital platforms.
  • Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at www.artfund.org
  • For further information please contact Madeline Adeane, Press Relations Manager, madeane@artfund.org / 0207 225 4804
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