Council's artwork fetches £74,000

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The Somnambulist
Image caption,
The painting may have been inspired the novel The Woman in White

A painting by the Victorian artist John Everett Millais has been sold by Bolton Council for £74,400.

The painting, titled The Somnambulist, had been given an estimated value of £80,000-100,000.

It is one of a number of artworks being auctioned by the council to pay for a new museum storage warehouse.

Bolton Council has said its decision to sell around 35 works of art is a last resort because there is no money in the main council budget.

The current storage facility is in a poor state of repair and the authority's budget is being cut by £60m over the next two years.

The council's other works to go under the hammer include a painting called Seagulls and Sapphire Seas by Robert Gemmell Hutchison, worth up to £180,000, plus an etching and a lithograph by Pablo Picasso.

Matthew Constantine from Bolton Council's museum service said: "If it weren't for the extraordinary circumstances that the council finds itself in, then it [selling art] is something we wouldn't be doing.

"But we live in an age of difficult decisions and the art world is not an exception to that."

Galleries are only allowed to sell paintings in exceptional circumstances and the money must go towards improving the remaining collection under Museums Association rules.

The council bought The Somnambulist for £400 in 1969. Bonhams auction house said it was "an unusual and entrancing work by arguably the most important Victorian artist of his generation".

The picture was exhibited at The Royal Academy in 1871 and as part of Manchester's Royal Jubilee exhibition in 1887.

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