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Culture Minister defers export of Picasso’s celebrated painting Child with a Dove

17 August 2012

Museums and Libraries

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on one of Picasso’s most important early paintings, Child with a Dove. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the painting in the United Kingdom.

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by Arts Council England. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the painting was so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune; that it was of outstanding aesthetic importance; and that it was of outstanding significance for the study of Picasso’s early works and artistic development, and British collecting of European avant-garde in the first decades of the 20th century.

The painting dates from the autumn of 1901. It is a key work within the development of Picasso’s art, and marks a transition into the artist’s celebrated Blue Period – a period of sombre works painted almost solely in shades of blue and blue-green, sparingly warmed by colour. Around this time, Picasso moved away from the broadly Impressionistic style he had been practising, simplifying his compositions and flattening the perspective. The painting depicts an image of a young child holding a dove closely next to a multi-coloured ball, standing in front of a subdued background.

Child with a Dove is one of the earliest and most important works by Picasso to enter a British collection. There are just five early oil paintings by Picasso in UK public permanent collections and Child with a Dove fills an important gap between Picasso’s more derivative Impressionistic works and the slightly later Blue Period works.

Child with a Dove was acquired in 1924 by Mrs R. A. Workman, who then sold the painting several years later to Samuel Courtauld, one of the most important art collectors in Britain and co-founder of the Courtauld Institute of Art. On his death in 1947 Samuel Courtauld bequeathed the painting to Lady Aberconway.

In 1974 the painting was placed on long-term loan to the National Gallery where it remained on permanent display until 2010. This iconic and hugely popular painting has thus been at the centre of Britain’s national collection for almost forty years, where it has been admired by tens of millions of visitors in one of the most popular art galleries in the UK.

Aidan Weston-Lewis, Reviewing Committee member, said: “Child with a Dove is a much-loved painting whose iconic status; together with its long history in British collections – latterly on loan to public galleries– make it of outstanding importance to our national heritage.”

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 16 December 2012 inclusive. This period may be extended until 16 June 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds is expressed with a view to making an offer to purchase the painting at the recommended price of £50,000,000.

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by Mr Vaizey. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to both parties through the sharing of tax advantages.

Notes to editors

  1. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the painting should contact:
    The Secretary
    The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
    Arts Council England
    Great Peter Street
    SW1P 3NQ

  2. Anyone interested in making a matching offer and who requires further information about the painting from the Champion should contact The Secretary to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest at the above address.

  3. For enquiries on the operation of and casework arising from the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) please contact the Enquiries team of or 0845 300 6200
  4. The details of the painting are:
    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
    Child with a Dove
    , 1901
    oil on canvas
    signed centre left ‘Picasso’
    73 x 54cm

    Paul Rosenberg, Paris
    Alexander Reid Gallery, Glasgow, 1924
    Purchased from the above by Mrs R. A. Workman, 1924
    Purchased from the above, by Samuel Courtauld, 1928
    Bequeathed by the above to Lady Aberconway, 1947
    By descent,
    On loan to the National Gallery, London, from 1974
  5. 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. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair matching price.
  6. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.