Ashmolean Museum secures JMW Turner’s The High Street

The Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford has successfully raised enough money to to acquire JMW’s The High Street, which is considered to be one of his most important works.
In just under four weeks, with kind contributions from members of the public and visitors to the museum, helped the institution raise the £60,000 needed to keep hold of the mesmeric work.
It has been on loan to the Ashmolean Museum since 1997 – from a private collection – however, its status changed. It was offered to the museum in lieu of £3.5 million of inheritance tax. If it had not been able to meet this, it would have then ended up on the open market.
The finances pertaining to works of major importance reads as such – courtesy of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport: “The acceptance in lieu scheme allows people to offer items of cultural and historical importance to the state in full or part payment of their inheritance tax, capital transfer tax or estate duty.”
Luckily, 90 per cent of the cash needed was, more or less, secured swiftly. The Art Fund put up £220,000, the Heritage Lottery Fund £550,000 and Friends and Patrons of the Ashmolean £30,000. That left the museum with a £60,000 shortfall (it needed to raise a total of £860,000).
Dr Alexander Sturgis, director of the Ashmolean, aid that he and his colleagues were “overwhelmed” by the support they had received from the public. He added: “With well over 800 people contributing to the appeal, it is clear that the local community, as well as visitors to the museum from across the world, feel that this picture, the greatest painting of the city ever made, must remain on show in a public museum in Oxford.
“We are so grateful to the members of the public who have made donations; to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund; and to the Friends and Patrons of the Museum. There are big plans for the painting once we acquire it. It will be lent to regional museums so as many people as possible from the surrounding area will be able to see it.”
Additionally, the expert continued, it will be a central piece to a new series of education activities that the museum is developing for schools and, in early 2016, it will have “pride of place” in the Ashmolean Museum’s refurbished Nineteenth Century Gallery.
The High Street is a much loved painting by the English romanticist landscape painter. Executed in 1810, the work depicts the main high street in Oxford, whose character and aesthetic has changed very little over the years.
It is unique for the fact that Turner painted it using oils – the only known work of a townscape that was created in this manner by the artist. It was commissioned by James Wyatt, a printseller who kept all of the correspondence he had with the artist during its formation. As such, it is one of the best documented paintings by Turner.
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