Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum Launches Campaign to Acquire Rare Turner

J.M.W. Turner High Street, Oxford (1810). Photo: courtesy the Ashmolean.
J.M.W. Turner High Street, Oxford (1810). Photo: courtesy the Ashmolean.

Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has reached out to the public in a campaign to raise the remaining £60,000 ($90,000) required for the acquisition of Joseph Mallord William Turner’s The High Street, Oxford (1810).

The painting is already hanging in the museum, where it’s been on loan since 1997. But the current owners have offered it to the museum in lieu of £3.5 million ($4.3 million) in owed inheritance tax, which means the museum has had to raise £860,000 ($1.3 million) to complete the acquisition.

Timothy Spall In <i>Mr. Turner</i>

Beloved British actor Timothy Spall playing beloved British painter JMW Turner in Mr. Turner.
Photo: courtesy Thin Man Films

The Heritage Lottery Fund has contributed £550,000 ($840,000), the Art Fund £220,000 ($330,000), and £30,000 ($46,000) came courtesy of the Friends and Patrons of the Ashmolean.

The High Street, Oxford is the only townscape that the beloved British painter completed in oil paint (see Tate’s JMW Turner Blockbuster Dazzles and Timothy Spall Reveals What It’s Like to Play J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh’s Film). It was commissioned by a local print seller, James Wyatt, and exhibited at his shop in Oxford, at the Royal Academy in London, and in Turner’s own gallery.

The entrance to Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum (2005). Photo: Merlin Cooper, via AntonK.

The entrance to Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum (2005).
Photo: Merlin Cooper, via AntonK.

High Street, Oxford is the young Turner’s most significant townscape and the greatest painting of the city that has ever been made,” Ashmolean director, Alexander Sturgis, said in a statement. “If the Ashmolean does not acquire the painting, it will be sold on the open market. All major oil paintings by Turner that have been offered at auction in recent years have been bought by foreign buyers,” he added (see Turner at Auction for First Time Since 1878).

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