A rare bronze sculpture of a horse by the 19th century French Impressionist master, Edgar Degas, has found a permanent home alongside other works at the National Museum of Art in Cardiff. The work, which is expected to become a star-attraction, has been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax from the estate of the artist, Lucian Freud, who died in 2011, and allocated permanently to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales. The sculpture, depicting a galloping horse, will be a stunning addition to the national art collections, which last year helped Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales achieve its highest-ever visitor figures of 1.75 million.
Speaking before the unveiling of the sculpture Welsh Government Minister for Culture and Sport, John Griffiths, said: “Our world class art collections are a major asset to Wales and the National Museum Cardiff is really going from strength to strength. “Increasing the number of visitors to our museums is a Welsh Government commitment and I’m delighted that we have delivered on this commitment. “I’m confident that this beautiful work will prove to be a popular draw with visitors and give people yet another reason to come and visit our world class art galleries.”
Amgueddfa Cymru’s seven museums collectively welcomed over 50,000 more visitors in 2012-13 than in 2011-12. National Museum Cardiff, which has developed its collection with a new National Museum of Art, has welcomed a record 477,399 visitors. The number of visitors to the city-centre museum has grown significantly with a 29% increase since 2010-11. The increase has been attributed to a sustained period of investment – with the Welsh Government contributing over £3 million to the £6 million National Museum of Art project – as well as strong exhibitions and an exciting events programme appealing to all ages.
The work by Degas has been considered to be the largest and perhaps greatest of the fifteen horse figures that were found in Degas’ studio after his death. The sculpture appears to be based on contemporary stop-action photography and reflects the artist’s love of horses and the race course. This sculpture is now secured for present and future generations – and represents a significant addition to Wales’ national art collections. Lucian Freud specified in his will that the artworks should be donated to the nation in place of inheritance tax. Freud, who was widely considered to be Britain’s greatest living artist before his death at the age of 88, fled to the UK from Germany with his family to escape the Nazis, before becoming a British citizen in 1939.
Lucian Freud himself had strong links to Wales. He trained alongside the Welsh artist Cedric Morris, worked for a period in Wales and is represented in the national art collections at National Museum Cardiff. David Anderson, Amgueddfa Cymru’s Director General explains “This new sculpture will be a major addition to our collection, of which we can all be proud. It includes works by outstanding Welsh artists as well as important international names. The bronze joins two other contrasting sculptures by Degas in our Davies Sisters collection of French art.
When the National Museum of Art opened the aim was to display a broad range of works, which would appeal to a wide audience. Visitor figures over the last 24 months prove that they have been succeeding. Works such as the Degas and other examples of French sculpture dating from between 1870 and 1910, including works by Rodin and Jules Dalou may be viewed at the museum. The Degas is the perfect complement to the existing holdings of modern French painting and sculpture that have been acquired by the museum since the 1880s.