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Tate Acquires Major Work by Richard Parkes Bonington
Richard Parkes Bonington, French Coast with Fishermen circa 1825. (detail) Purchased from a Private Collector through Christie's (General Funds) with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and Tate Members 2004.

LONDON, UK.- Tate has acquired a major work by Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828) which is on display at Tate Britain. The acquisition was made possible as a result of the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund) and Tate Members.

French Coast with Fisherman, dated c. 1825 is the larger of two French coastal landscapes which Bonington chose to mark his debut at the British Institution in 1826. The painting is an expansive treatment of rustic fisherfolk, characterised by brilliant, luminous tone and fresh and daring brushwork. It was exactly this kind of treatment of a beach scene that famously led to JMW Turner paying homage to Bonington with his painting of Calais Sands, 1836 (Bury Art Gallery).

The painting was on loan to the Tate in the early 1970s and then again in 2002 when it was hung to great effect in the Clore Gallery alongside JMW Turner and other contemporaries. The return of the painting and the new display planned from the 21 March will significantly strengthen Tate’s holdings of works by this important artist of the British and French Romantic period of the early nineteenth century.

Bonington was raised in Nottingham but moved to France with his family in 1817. He lived at first in Calais and afterwards in Paris, where he received most of his training and then had a studio. His first exhibition was at the Paris Salon and subsequently at the British Institution and then the Royal Academy. Although he received recognition in Paris, his exhibition at the British Institution was a stunning success for the artist and attracted much critical acclaim. A review of the period by the Literary Gazette stated “….here are pictures which would grace the foremost name in landscape art. Sunshine, perspective, vigour, a fine sense of beauty in disposing of the colours…” French Coast with Fisherman was bought at the British Institution exhibition by one of its Governors, the Countess de Grey.

Bonington’s reputation was as a fluent and brilliant painter in watercolour – then regarded as a quintessentially English medium – and also a virtuoso and innovative painter in oils. Today, he is chiefly remembered as a landscape painter but his subject matter also embraced literary and historical subjects in the so-called ‘troubadour’ style, often painted alongside his friend, Eugene Delacroix.

David Blayney Brown, Curator of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British Art, Tate Collection, commented: ‘This is a very significant as well as a beautiful work. It introduced Bonington to a new audience in London and now, thanks to the generosity and the combined efforts of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and Tate Members, it will greatly enhance the Tate Collection’.

Sue Bowers, Heritage Lottery Fund Regional Manager for London, said, ‘This acquisition not only secures a major work of British Romantic art for the nation but also represents a tremendous opportunity for the Tate to put in place an innovative education and touring programme. We hope that people will both admire Bonington’s French Coast with Fishermen and become involved in learning experiences inspired by the painting. We never forget that we are spending Lottery players’ money and ensuring that as many visitors as possible can enjoy this picture is an important responsibility for us.’

David Barrie, Director of the National Art Collections Fund said: “This is a superlative example of the work of one of England’s finest landscape and seascape painters; its acquisition is a great coup for Tate, and we are delighted that it will now be displayed at Tate Britain alongside the great works by Turner.”

This purchase has been made possible by the combined funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£791,000), Art Fund (£100,000) and Tate Members to the value of £1,284,026.

The painting is on show as part of the BP British Art Displays, supported by BP at Tate Britain. The money from the Heritage Lottery Fund will also fund a national display tour in 2007/8.

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