The Art Fund helps Lancaster Maritime Museum acquire two portraits with local connections

  • 1 September 2009

LANCASTER Maritime Museum has added two important local portraits to its fine art collections thanks to a £1,500 grant from The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity, and £2,500 from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council/Victoria & Albert Musuem Purchase Grant Fund.

A portrait of Abraham Rawlinson (1709 to 1780) of Grassyard Hall, Caton by artist George Romney (1734 to 1802) and a portrait of his wife, Ellenor Godslave Rawlinson (1716 to 1766), painted by an unknown artist, will go on public display in early 2010 after minor conservation work has been carried out.

The truth behind these paintings and their links to Lancaster can now be revealed after a great deal of detective work was undertaken by Stephen Sartin, curator of art for Lancashire County Museum Service.

The Rawlinson family were one of the most prominent merchant families operating in the 18th century in the North West. They were chief ironmasters at Backbarrow producing iron for export and shipbuilding and also dominated the West Indian trade at Lancaster.

The portrait of Abraham is thought to be one of three commissioned by his son-in-law, William Lindow in 1771-72. The others can be found in the Tate Gallery in London and Meols Hall in Southport. The depiction of Abraham's wife in the second portrait is quite different and appears to be painted at a much earlier date. After further investigation, we know the two portraits were intended to hang together in the Lindow's Lancaster home. However, whilst the portrait of Abraham was painted from life when he was in his sixties, the portrait of Ellenor is actually a copy of an earlier painting as she had died in 1766.

Michelle Cooper, assistant keeper at Lancaster Maritime Museum said: "We are grateful to The Art Fund and the MLA/Victoria & Albert Purchase Grant Fund for their support enabling us to acquire these paintings. The portrait of Abraham Rawlinson is an outstanding work painted by George Romney, one of the greatest portrait painters of his time. As a pair they represent one of the most powerful merchant families in 18th century Lancaster. They will go in display here at the Maritime Museum to help tell the story of Lancaster's 'Golden Age' when merchant trading with the West Indies helped to make Lancaster the 4th largest port in the country."

A spokesperson from The Art Fund said: "These finely executed portraits also function as important historical documents, highlighting Lancaster’s colourful history as a centre for trade. It is entirely fitting that the works should go on display side by side at the city’s Maritime Museum, where they will be appreciated by locals and visitors to the area for years to come."

Lancaster Maritime Museum is open daily from 11am-5pm (Easter-October). Admission is £3 adults, £2 concessions. Local residents and kids go free.

Ends

 

For more information on the portraits or any of the exhibitions at the museum contact Michelle Cooper on 01524 383364 or visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/museums

For more information on The Art Fund contact Marina Bradbury at The Art Fund press office, mbradbury@artfund.org, 020 7225 4888.

The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections. Recent achievements include: helping secure Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London in February 2009 with a grant of £1 million; helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit www.artfund.org .

The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174