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12th June 2012
Director Ann Sumner today announces that Birmingham Museums has been awarded £675,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support the acquisition of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ iconic portrait of Dr John Ash.
The exquisite work, currently owned by Queen Elizabeth Birmingham Hospitals Charity, is on loan to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. This acquisition will secure the painting for the city, to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the masterpiece.
The portrait of Dr Ash by the celebrated 18th century portrait painter Reynolds is valued at £900,000. Professor Sumner comments, “We are absolutely delighted that HLF has supported us in the acquisition of this significant work. The portrait is arguably Reynolds’ most elaborate and successful full-length institutional work. Its combined historic and artistic qualities make it one of the most important cultural icons of the city of Birmingham and a civic treasure. This is a great boost for Birmingham Museums, and we hope through a successful public fundraising appeal, we will be able to keep this impressive painting on display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.”
In addition to the £675,000 from the HLF, Birmingham Museums has raised £175,000 through grants from organisations including The Art Fund, the Museum Development Trust and the Friends of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Professor Sumner continues, “We are now working to raise £50,000 though a public appeal in order to save the picture for the people of Birmingham.”
Reyahn King, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the West Midlands said: “This painting has significant importance for the city’s heritage, and we are delighted to be able to help with this grant to keep it here where it belongs. In addition to funding the acquisition, we are also enabling Birmingham Museums to run an exciting programme of events and activities for people of all ages around the portrait, from talks and demos about 18th century medicine to family storytelling, conservation and painting techniques workshops and site visits for schools so that everyone can learn the special place Dr Ash has in Birmingham’s history.”
Dr Stephen Deuchar, Director of The Art Fund commented: “This important painting is embedded in the culture and history of Birmingham and quite simply belongs with Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. We really hope that people dig deep and support the appeal: it truly deserves to succeed!”
John Ash (1723 – 98) was an eminent physician who built up a successful medical practice from his house in Temple Row in Birmingham. Ash was a co-founder of the Birmingham General Hospital, and the portrait commissioned by the governors of the Hospital in honour of his services to the people of Birmingham. The first instalment of 100 guineas (half payment) was paid to Reynolds by George Birch on behalf of the governors in April 1788. The eleven sittings with Ash are recorded in the artist’s pocket book between 28th April and 7th July the same year.
To make a donation to Birmingham Museums, visit http://www.justgiving.com/hycwxnxrpu/donate or call 0121 303 1966.
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