An important drawing by the French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas has been donated to the nation under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, overseen by the Arts Council. The drawing, which has never been on public view, has been allocated to Pallant House Gallery and will be on display at the Gallery until August 2016. Edward Harley, Chairman of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel said: “The Acceptance in Lieu scheme continues to enrich our public collections. I am delighted that this exceptional drawing has been allocated to Pallant House Gallery.”
Edgar Degas’ ‘Femme se peignant’ (c.1887–1890) (translated as ‘Woman combing her hair’) is a significant addition to the Gallery’s permanent collection of British and International Modern art, including an existing collection of continental artworks by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists including Paul Cézanne, Edouard Vuillard, Andrè Derain, Pablo Picasso and Gino Severini.
The charcoal drawing, created on tracing paper with red chalk highlights, has always remained in private hands and has a fascinating provenance. At a time of surging interest amongst influential dealers in Degas’ work, ‘Femme se peignant’ was acquired directly from the artist by the French dealer Ambrose Vollard who published it alongside several other large charcoal works in a celebratory volume of Degas’ work in 1914.
The drawing was then purchased by the much admired and unconventional socialite Gladys Deacon, a prolific female collector during the 1910s and 1920s who moved in artistic and aristocratic circles and had friendships with artists and writers including Auguste Rodin and Marcel Proust. Deacon was famous for her beauty and is said to have captivated figures including Proust, Wilhelm Crown Prince of Russia, RC Trevelyan, Anatole France and Hermann von Keyserling. In her art collection were other works by Degas, several sculptures by Rodin, and an oil painting by Toulouse-Lautrec. She also sat for Giovanni Boldini in 1901.
In 1921, Deacon became the Duchess of Marlborough, marrying the 9th Duke of Marlborough after his divorce from Consuelo Vanderbilt and taking residence at Blenheim Palace, from which she was later evicted. After her death in 1977 at a mental health institution in Northampton ‘Femme se peignant’ was purchased at auction by the late owner Stephen Brod. Latterly, Pallant House Gallery was chosen by the recipient of Brod’s estate to receive the work in lieu of Inheritance Tax through the AiL scheme. The deal was brokered by Sotheby’s.
Simon Martin, Artistic Director, commented: ‘We are delighted by the acquisition of this remarkable Impressionist drawing, which is a very significant enhancement to Pallant House Gallery’s permanent collection. We are extremely grateful to the executor of Brod’s estate, the Arts Council and Acceptance in Lieu panel for choosing to allocate this to a regional gallery where it will be available to all, transforming our holdings of continental art. It will enable us to demonstrate the profound influence of Degas on British artists, in particular his friend Walter Sickert, but also to explore the story of Gladys Deacon, one of the most fascinating female collectors of the 20th century.’
Edgar Degas’ ‘Femme se peignant’ (c.1887–1890) Pallant House Gallery from 15 April 2016 – August 2016.