The Art Fund aids triple portrait save for Dorset County Museum

A £55,000 grant from The Art Fund has helped the Dorset County Museum to save three important portraits by the artist George Romney following a successful fundraising appeal.

Dorset County Museum has been raising funds for over a year to reach the target of £279,749 for the purchase of the paintings, conservation, display and a full programme of interpretation. The three portraits are of the Rackett family, ‘Thomas Rackett the Elder’ (1776), his wife ‘Mrs Thomas Rackett’ (1776) and son ‘Thomas Rackett the Younger’ (1768).

The portraits, which could have been sold overseas had the Museum not been able to raise the funds, have a strong connection to Dorset as Rackett was rector of Spetisbury, Dorset, for 59 years. A distinguished antiquarian, naturalist, geologist and artist the paintings have remained in the family and in Dorset for over 100 years.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “Together with Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, Romney’s elegant yet formal portrait style confirmed him as one of the key figures in 18th Century British art. His full length portrait of Thomas Rackett the Younger that forms the centrepiece of this trio of paintings is of national importance and one of his finest early portraits. I’m very pleased The Art Fund was able to contribute to the saving of these three works which significantly complement the Museum’s permanent collection.”

Judy Lindsay, Director of Dorset County Museum, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the campaign to keep these fabulous portraits in Dorset has been successful. The paintings will be displayed in Dorset County Museum for future generations to enjoy and we look forward to delivering an inspirational programme of related events and exhibitions over the coming year.”

The Museum’s efforts culminated this week when it heard it had been successful in attracting a grant of £179,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other monies came from a local fundraising campaign.

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