Two masterpieces by the 18th century painter George Stubbs, featuring a kangaroo and a dingo executed in 1778 will stay in the UK permanently, after a successful campaign to save them for the nation. A £1.5m donation from shipping magnate Eyal Ofer has enabled the National Maritime Museum to buy the paintings which were sold at auction earlier this year.
The paintings commissioned by Captain Cook gave the British public its first glimpse of strange creatures from the “New World” are at risk of leaving the UK unless a matching offer from a UK buyer can be found.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey had placed a temporary export bar on the two works in January “The Kongouro from New Holland (The Kangaroo) and Portrait of a Large Dog (The Dingo)” to provide a last chance to raise the £5,500,000 needed to keep the paintings in the UK.
As a major figure in British art history, Stubbs is well known as a painter of horses, dogs and sporting subjects; however The Kangaroo and The Dingo were amongst the very few creatures Stubbs was unable to paint from life.They are the first known depictions of the Australian animals in Western art. Stubbs worked mostly from verbal accounts, and in the case of The Kangaroo, from rough sketches and from the preserved skin of the animals.
The National Maritime Museum said it was “delighted” with the donation from the Eyal Ofer Family Foundation. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, who said it was “great news” that the “strange and wonderful paintings will be available to be enjoyed by everyone for generations to come”.