Success for portrait appeal with help from The Art Fund

  • 6 February 2008

Following a successful public appeal, the only known portrait from life of the playwright and Shakespeare collaborator John Fletcher will join the National Portrait Gallery's collection of 16th and 17th century writers, which includes Shakespeare, Jonson and Donne.

The Art Fund kick-started the appeal with a grant for £50,000 towards the £218,000 needed to acquire the painting in November last year.  Among the public donations was £2,700 raised through a raffle organised by Fletcher’s House Tea Rooms in Rye, Sussex, the property where Fletcher, a vicar’s son, was born in 1579.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said:

“Fletcher may not be quite as famous as Shakespeare and Jonson, but like them he played a major part in the astonishing burst of creativity that lit up the English stage in the early 17th century. The Art Fund is both proud and pleased to have got the National Portrait Gallery’s campaign to acquire it off to a flying start.”

John Fletcher (1579-1625) was one of the most successful and prolific playwrights of the Jacobean period. He wrote three plays jointly with Shakespeare: Cardenio (now lost), The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, he is also well known for his collaboration with Francis Beaumont and others, as well as writing his own works.

The painting, by an unidentified artist, shows Fletcher as a prosperous and well-dressed man with paper and pens, the tools of his trade.  It will be an important addition to the Gallery’s significant collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean writers, which includes paintings of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Donne.  The Art Fund was instrumental in saving the portrait of Donne for this collection in 2006.

The portrait of Fletcher will continue to be shown in the Jacobean Galleries and later in the year the National Portrait Gallery will hang it as part of a special display celebrating the extraordinary achievement of writers of the period.

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National Portrait Gallery