NG London acquires rare Van Gogh

January 7 2014

Image of NG London acquires rare Van Gogh

Picture: National Gallery

Here's a story I (and practically everyone else it seems) missed from December - the National Gallery has acquired the above portrait by Van Gogh. You might expect a Van Gogh acquisition to be big news. But probably just a few days before Christmas isn't a good time to issue a museum press release. More details on the picture here, and a zoomable image here. Strangely, the story was picked up by the Chinese government press agency Xinhua.

The picture was acquired through the government's new Cultural Giving Scheme, which gives tax concessions for donations of cultural objects. In the past, you could only get such concessions if you were dead, through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. (This was one of the recommendations of the Arts Taskforce I served on in 2008/9. Just sayin'.)

Update - a reader writes:

I wonder if one of the reasons it may have been missed is that the painting was on loan to the NG from late 2011 and the label was then changed to record it as an acquisition on 20 December 2013.

Another adds:

Probably worth noting that works from this period are not THAT rare – van Gogh was really quite prolific – as there’s another Nuenen portrait in Edinburgh and two other pictures from this period in other collections in the UK.  

Nonetheless It is good to see the National get a portrait by him at last: they were offered a major late one in the early 1980s and there’s a complaint somewhere in their Annual Reports at the time that they didn’t receive enough Grant-in-Aid for acquisitions to be able to afford it.  And this when they did have a discrete acquisitions grant from government and, indeed, in that remarkable period when, following an agreement under the Labour administration up to 1979, they were allocated sums up to £3.3 million (in 1983-1984) for just this purpose.  

One other point about van Gogh portraits in the National Gallery’s collection – they did have one before, for a short period of time.  See the provenance record [of this work now in the US].

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