The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford recently announced the launch of a public campaign to raise the final £60,000 to secure for the nation a major work by Joseph Mallord William Turner. The High Street, Oxford, 1810 has been on loan to the Museum from a private collection since 1997, and has been offered to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax. Now the painting of Oxford will remain in the city after the Ashmolean Museum raised the money to buy it in a mere four weeks.
The High Street, Oxford is unique in Turner’s output and in the history of English art. It represents one of the most beautiful streets in Europe, a street which has materially changed little since Turner painted it. Although he painted many townscapes in watercolour, Turner never again attempted such a picture in oils.
The Ashmolean needed to raise the sum of £860,000. A grant of £550,000 had already been offered by the Heritage Lottery Fund; £220,000 from the Art Fund; and £30,000 from Friends and Patrons of the Ashmolean. The remaining sum of £60,000 was raised in the four weeks by Oxford residents and museum visitors.
“The museum has been overwhelmed by public support. With well over 800 people contributing to the appeal, it is clear that the local community, as well as visitors to the museum from across the world, feel that this picture, the greatest painting of the city ever made, must remain on show in a public museum in Oxford.” said Alexander Sturgis, director of the Ashmolean.
Oxford printseller, James Wyatt commissioned Turner to paint the picture in 1809. The result remains one of the most fully documented of all the artist’s works because Wyatt kept all the correspondence.
Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, congratulated the Ashmolean: “It would have been such a tragedy to lose this beautiful and important work by Turner, and clearly the public felt the same. We’re proud to stand alongside everyone who contributed generously to make this happen.”