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Garden Museum acquires unique Gilman portrait

The Art Fund has helped the Garden Museum in London purchase Portrait of a Black Gardener by Harold Gilman at auction.

This enigmatic image, originally entitled Portrait of a Negro Gardener was painted by Gilman in 1905 and is an important cultural and historic artefact; it is also likely to be the earliest example in 20th century British art of a person of sub-Saharan origin to be the sole subject of a full-length portrait.

Although the sitter is thought to be a model, this unique acquisition will help the museum re-orientate its collection towards the diversity of a central London audience.

Gilman, a keen gardener himself, was a pupil at The Slade together with Spencer Gore, Wyndham Lewis, and was a founder member of Walter Sickert’s Camden Town School.

The Art Fund gave a grant of £5,000 towards the full cost of the painting which was bought at auction for £127,000; further funds were raised via the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Royal Horticultural Society.

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