Two new acquisitions at the National Gallery

May 25 2012

Image of Two new acquisitions at the National Gallery

Picture: National Gallery

My sharpest-eyed reader has spotted two new acquisitions at the National Gallery, London. He writes:

It appears that the National are going to be given two of the paintings shown in their recent exhibition of the Lunde collection [The Lower Falls of the Labrofoss by Johan Christian Dahl, above, and At Handeck by Alexandre Calme].

Two things are interesting about this.

The Dahl and Calame will actually be given to the Gallery's not-for-prodit arm based in New York - the American Friends of the National Gallery London - for tax reasons I imagine.  As you know gifts of works of art to charities in the US attract tax relief but this option has only been introduced in the UK from 1st April this year.  The government are now proposing to limit any charitable gift to £50,000.  

Aside from the fact that the AFNGL holds the donation from Sir Paul Getty and is used to filter other US gifts of money, again for tax reasons, this mechanism has been used before to donate at least one other work of art.  The Sara Lee Foundation gave them this Degas in 1998.

The other interesting element is the acquisition of 19th C Northern European landscape paintings itself.  Unlike the Met, the National has not collected extensively in this field aside from the two Danish scenes, the Balke given to them last year, and the surprising - and brilliantly imaginative - purchase of the Gallen-Kallela in 1999.

As far as I am aware, there are only a couple of Dahls (Johan Christian not Michael!) in any UK collection - at the Barber and the Fitzwilliam - and they are more typical of the sort of Dahl other institutions have been buying.

Calame is better known, and was collected in the UK in the 19th C - the National already has one example given in 1900 though, oddly, in the item on the exhibition in the June 2011 podcast one member of gallery staff seems not to be aware of the fact.

Of course, if the Gallery had wanted to have a better display of this sort of painting, it need only have borrowed from the V&A, which holds two paintings by Calame, as well as works by Steffan, Diday, Schleich, Baade and lots of others of that ilk.

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