Thomas Gainsborough: Export bar put on 'finest' painting

  • Published
Thomas Gainsborough's 'Going to Market, Early Morning'Image source, DCMS
Image caption,
Thomas Gainsborough's painting Going to Market, Early Morning, is worth £8m

An oil painting by English landscape artist Thomas Gainsborough could leave Britain's shores unless a UK buyer comes forward to buy the £8m work.

An application to take the Suffolk-born artist's Going to Market, Early Morning out of the country was made after it was sold at auction in July.

In a bid to keep it in the country, art minister Helen Whately has placed a temporary export bar on the artwork.

The 1773 painting has been described as one of Gainsborough's "finest".

Painted in Bath, it depicts a group on horseback travelling through the countryside and passing a destitute mother with a baby.

Ms Whately said: "Gainsborough is one of the greatest British landscape artists and his works still wow audiences more than 250 years later.

"This piece is a superb example and I hope that a UK buyer can be found so we can find a new home for this work in our national collection."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Gainsborough was one of the leading painters of the 18th Century

Her decision follows the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).

The committee agreed the work was a "brilliant example" of Gainsborough's "finest work" and provided "an important insight into the artist's working practices".

Great master of 18th Century painting

  • Thomas Gainsborough was born in May 1727 in Sudbury, Suffolk
  • He was sent to London to study drawing at the age of 13
  • Around 1749, he moved back to Suffolk and his portraits were mainly of local gentry and merchants
  • He moved to Bath in 1759 in a bid to win more commissions
  • In 1768, he was elected a founder member of the Royal Academy of Arts
  • He was commissioned to paint portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte in 1780
  • In 1784, he quarrelled with the Royal Academy over the hanging of his pictures and withdrew them and from then on exhibited pictures in his own studio
  • Gainsborough died of cancer on 2 August 1788.

Source: BBC History

The DCMS said the decision on the application to remove the painting from the UK would be deferred until 22 March, next year.

It could be extended until 22 September if a "serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £7,961,000 plus £234,200 VAT", it added.

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