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Export deferred on Britain’s first kangaroo and dingo paintings

  • Date: 8 February 2013
  • Area: National
George Stubbs, The Kangaroo

George Stubbs, The Kangaroo.

Export has been deferred on two paintings by George Stubbs that gave Britain a first glimpse of strange creatures from the New World.

£5.5 million to be raised

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey placed a temporary export bar on the two works The Kongouro from New Holland (The Kangaroo) and Portrait of a Large Dog (The Dingo) to provide a last chance for a buyer to raise the £5.5 million needed to keep the paintings in the UK.

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA). This independent committee, serviced by Arts Council England, recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the paintings were so closely connected with our national life that their departure would be a misfortune; and that they were of outstanding significance for the study of eighteenth century exploration of Australia and the public dissemination of knowledge during the Enlightenment.

Chairman of the RCEWA, Lord Inglewood said:

‘It would be a terrible shame if the UK were to lose these extraordinary paintings to an overseas buyer. They were the British public’s first introduction to these exotic animals from the Australasian New World which was opening up at that time.’

The decision on the export licence application for the paintings will be deferred for a period ending on 5 August, 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 5 November, 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the paintings at the recommended price.

George Stubbs

As a major figure in British art history, Stubbs is well known as a painter of horses, dogs and sporting subjects; however The Kangaroo and The Dingo were amongst the very few creatures Stubbs was unable to paint from life.

The paintings were first exhibited in 1773 at the Royal Academy, and were hugely important in bringing to public attention two of the animals which were to be most closely identified with the extraordinary and baffling new world of Australia. They were almost certainly commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks (1743 to 1820), immediately following his part in Captain James Cook’s celebrated ‘first voyage of discovery’ to the Pacific (1768 to 1771).

Find out more about the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest on our website