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Blocking the View

05 November 2013

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Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has temporarily blocked the export of a painting by a major and influential international landscapist of the 18th century. The View of Avignon, by French artist Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) is set to leave the UK early next year unless a buyer comes forward to secure it for the nation.

There are many paintings by Vernet in British public and private collections, but the View of Avignon is a rarity in his work in that it offers a topographically accurate view of an actual place, as opposed to his customary composed, imaginary landscapes and coastal scenes. It therefore represents an important aspect of Vernet’s work scarcely available to the public in the UK. That this is Vernet’s only known view of his native city – which was also the birthplace of the important patron who commissioned it, Louis-Gabriel Peilhon – adds further interest and lustre.

Many of Vernet’s most successful paintings were conceived as part of a series, and this majestic picture is arguably his finest single work. Its importance to the artist himself is demonstrated by the fact that he commissioned an engraving of it some 25 years after it was completed, and distributed impressions of this to family, friends and patrons.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for the painting following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by Arts Council England, on the grounds that it is of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of Vernet.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “A View of Avignon, possibly the finest example of Vernet’s single works, has been in the UK for over 200 years now, and it would be a great misfortune for it to be exported overseas. I hope that temporarily preventing its export will allow time for a UK buyer to come forward and acquire it for the nation.”

Lowell Libson from the RCEWA commented: “This is an exceptional work by one of the 18th Century’s most talented landscape artists. The painting has the wonderful sense of grandeur and purity we so often associate with Vernet’s work, and is made even more special by the fact that it is one of the very few works in which the artist painted a “real”, rather than imagined, landscape.”

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 30 January 2014 inclusive. This period may be extended until 30 May 2014 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the painting at the recommended price of £5,475,800 (plus VAT on the buyer’s premium of which £155,160 should be reclaimable by eligible institutions).

Notes to editors

1. Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the painting should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

2. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by Arts Council England, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria.

3. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. Between 2010 and 2015, it will invest £1.9billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk

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Tamara Salhab
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