Old Masters Donated To British Museums By Sir Denis Mahon

The transfer of the late Sir Denis Mahon’s collection of 57 Italian Baroque paintings into museums and galleries across the UK has been completed through the Art Fund. Masterpieces by Guercino, Guido Reni, Domenichino and others have entered the permanent collections of six British museums and galleries. Twenty-five works have gone to the National Gallery, twelve to the Ashmolean, eight to the Scottish National Gallery, six to the Fitzwilliam Museum, five to Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery and one to Temple Newsam House in Leeds.

Mahon joined the Art Fund as a schoolboy in 1926 and remained a member, close supporter and advocate until his death in 2011. During that period he became one of Britain’s most distinguished art historians, collectors and campaigners. He left his collection to the Art Fund with instructions that the collection should be place on display in specific locations across the country in perpetuity. He formed his collection over several decades, demonstrating the range, significance and quality of the Italian Baroque despite its neglect by scholars. His passion and erudition, and the quality of the works he collected, had a discernable impact on the status of the Italian Baroque in the history of European art.

The collection has been on long-term loan from Sir Denis to the respective museums for many years, on the condition that they did not charge admission or sell works from their collections. Sir Denis saw the Art Fund, independent of government funding and influence, as the ideal long-term guardian of his collection and his wishes. In addition to the 57 bequeathed works, which can be viewed in our online gallery, Sir Denis has also left a £1 million legacy to the Art Fund. He also gave the Ashmolean a set of 50 works associated with Guercino.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: “Sir Denis Mahon was a life-long supporter of the Art Fund and shared our fundamental commitment to widening free public access to art. His vision as an art collector was extraordinary, as was his determination that his collection should ultimately be on public display. It is an enormous honour for the Art Fund to have been entrusted with his private collection and to oversee its transfer into the permanent collections of these museums and galleries across the UK.”

Sir Denis has made the donation under the condition that British Museums remain free of charge.

Sir Denis Mahon’s Bequest

National Gallery, London: 25 works
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: 12 works
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh: 8 works
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: 6 works
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery: 5 works
Temple Newsam House, Leeds: 1 work

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