Two George Stubbs paintings that offered 18th-century Britons their first glimpse of creatures from the ‘new world’ are to remain in the UK.
A £1.5m donation from shipping and real estate magnate Eyal Ofer has enabled the National Maritime Museum to buy the paintings.
Created by Stubbs following Captain Cook’s expeditions to the Pacific, the oil paintings Kongouro from New Holland and Portrait of a Large Dog were the first depiction of a kangaroo and a dingo in western art.
The paintings have remained in the UK since 1773, and were privately owned until they were sold to a buyer outside the UK in late 2012.
Deemed to be of outstanding significance for the study of 18th-century exploration of Australia, the paintings were in January put under an export bar to provide a last chance to raise the £5.5m needed to keep them in the UK.
Thanks to the Eyal Ofer donation, along with significant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Monument Trust, the Art Fund and the public, the National Maritime Museum’s Save Our Stubbs campaign has met its target.
Broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who backed the Museum’s appeal, said: “Exciting news that these two pictures, so important in the history of zoological discovery, are to remain where they were commissioned and painted.”
The paintings were commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks following his participation in Captain James Cook’s first Pacific voyage of ‘discovery’ aboard HMS Endeavour between 1768 and 1771.
The works will initially go on display in the historic Queen’s House, part of the National Maritime Museum, in summer 2014. They will be central to the Museum’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Cook’s Endeavour voyage in 2018.
Artist George Stubbs was unable to paint the kangaroo and dingo from life; instead he worked from verbal accounts.