News item from 2012


The Ashmolean Campaigns To Save A Masterpiece By Manet For The Nation

The Ashmolean Museum is mounting a campaign to save Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, 1868, for the nation. On the advice of the Reviewing Committee, the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has extended the temporary export bar on the painting until August to give the Ashmolean time in which to raise the funds in order to acquire the painting. The painting has been sold to a foreign buyer for £28.35 million but, under a private treaty sale, with tax remission it can be purchased by an approved UK public collection at a greatly reduced price. The Ashmolean is approaching public funding bodies, trusts and private individuals, and launching a public campaign to raise the required £7.83 million.

Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, said, “This is one of the most important pictures of the 19th century which has been in this country since its sale following the artist’s death. The painting is available to public bodies approved by the Treasury at 25% of its market value. The £7.83 million, though a substantial sum to be found, is a mere fraction of the picture’s actual worth and it would therefore be an enormous disappointment if it could not be saved for the nation. The picture’s significance is reflected in its history: it was hugely admired and then bought by another great artist, John Singer Sargent, in 1884. Its purchase would, at a stroke, transform the Ashmolean’s representation of Impressionist painting.”

Manet was one of the greatest painters of the 19th century. During his lifetime he was controversial, but his work, though it shocked the public, was hugely admired by artists. His reputation grew rapidly in the 20th century and consequently his best works were acquired by major museums. There are now remarkably few Manets in private collections, almost all in France, and there are only a handful of important pictures by Manet in the United Kingdom – in the National Gallery and the Courtauld Institute in London, as well as other works in Cardiff, Birmingham, and Glasgow. Adding to the Museum’s permanent collections and the Pissarro Family Collection, the acquisition of this masterpiece would make the Ashmolean a world-leading centre for the study of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work.

The portrait is a preparatory study for Le Balcon (1868–9) now in the Musée d’Orsay - one of the key images of the Impressionist movement. Initially inspired by the sight of people on a balcony, during a summer spent in Boulogne-sur-Mer with his family in 1868, Le Balcon famously draws on Goya’s Majas on a Balcony painted around 1810. It is also an important example of Manet’s work from the late 1860s onwards when he began to focus his attention on his family and close friends. The portrait’s subject is Fanny Claus (1846–77), the closest friend of Manet’s wife Suzanne Leenhoff. A concert violinist and member of the first all-women string quartet, Fanny was one of Manet’s favourite sitters and a member of a close-knit group of friends who also provided the artist with models. She married the artist Pierre Prins (1838–1913), another friend of Manet’s, in 1869, but died of tuberculosis just eight years later at the age of 30.

If acquired by the Ashmolean the Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus will be shown at a number of museums in the UK in a special exhibition. Having previously been exhibited only once since it was painted, this will be a great revelation both to the public and to Manet scholars. As a first sketch, the portrait has a spontaneous quality and a vibrant palette less evident in Le Balcon which was reworked a number of times by the artist as he refined the composition in his studio. Mademoiselle Claus reveals fascinating new information about the working methods of Edouard Manet, one of the greatest masters of modern art.

To follow the Ashmolean's progress with the campaign visit:

The Export Bar
On the 8 December 2011the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey placed an export bar on Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus. The ruling follows the recommendation of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by Arts Council England. The Committee has recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the portrait was of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of French painting of the second half of the nineteenth century and in particular the work of Manet, one of the leading Impressionist painters of the period. For more information visit  or Sam Gough, Media Relations Officer (Museums and Libraries), on 020 7973 5189, email:  

Private Treaty Sales
Items which have been granted conditional exemption from capital taxation (Inheritance Tax (“IHT”), Estate Duty (ED) or Capital Gains Tax (“CGT”) can be purchased by private treaty by a body listed in Schedule 3 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984: (which includes most public museums, galleries and archives in the United Kingdom) at a price which is beneficial to the public purchaser. For more information visit: . Such a sale will not give rise to a charge to IHT, ED or CGT. In this case, as the principle is that the owner should not be financially disadvantaged by the Export Control procedures, all of the benefit will apply to the Schedule 3 purchaser. HM Revenue & Customs will forgo all of the tax that would be payable if the painting is sold abroad.

The Ashmolean Museum
Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is Britain’s oldest public museum and possibly the oldest museum in the world. In 2009 it reopened following a £61 million redevelopment. The new Ashmolean building, designed by award-winning architect Rick Mather, has received universal acclaim and numerous awards. It houses 39 new galleries, including the new special exhibition galleries, an Education Centre, state-of-the-art conservation studios, and Oxford’s first roof-top restaurant. Although completely invisible behind Charles Cockerell’s neo-classical façade, the Rick Mather building has provided the Museum with 100% more display space and the facilities to launch a major exhibitions programme. In 2011 six new galleries of Ancient Egypt and Nubia opened to the public, following a second phase of redevelopment. The redisplay of the Egyptian collections takes visitors on a chronological journey covering more than 5000 years of human occupation of the Nile Valley. The Ashmolean is now the most visited museum in the country outside London. Admission is free.

European art at the Ashmolean
The Ashmolean’s collections include European paintings, sculpture and applied arts, and one of the finest collections of drawings and prints in the world. Highlights include well-known masterpieces such as Paolo Uccello's Hunt in the Forest and Claude Lorrain's Ascanius shooting the Stag of Sylvia are on view in the galleries. There are important displays of Renaissance Italian art, Flemish and Dutch 17th-century paintings (including the Daisy Linda Ward Collection of still-life paintings), the Pre-Raphaelites (mainly from the Combe Bequest of 1895) and the work of Camille Pissarro and his family (thanks to several gifts from the Pissarro family). The Ashmolean holds the following works by Manet: two beautiful unfinished oils, A Garden Urn and A Basket of Pears, both formerly owned by the German Impressionist, Max Liebermann; as well as an early landscape, a watercolour of one of Manet’s most famous compositions, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, and a number of other drawings.


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