The National Galleries of Scotland has four weeks to raise three quarters of a million pounds from the public to secure the future of one of Scotland’s most iconic paintings.
A “Help Save The Stag” appeal was launched at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh in a bid to ensure the Monarch of the Glen goes on display there - or run the risk of it going overseas.
The Galleries has confirmed that the Heritage Lottery Fund has pledged £2.75 million towards the £4 million cost of the 19th century masterpiece.
Sir Edwin Landseer’s 1851 work will pass into public hands for the first time if the campaign is successful and is expected to go on display within weeks.
The Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art, has also pledged £350,000 towards the purchase, while a further £150,000 worth of donations and pledges have been made from as far afield as the United States and Alaska.
Sir John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries, said he was hopeful that a successful fundraising campaign would mean avoiding having to dip into his own acquisitions budget, of £200,000 a year.
Galleries chiefs struck a deal with drinks giant Diageo in November to agree a cut-price sale of the painting - for less than half its estimated £10 million valuation - weeks after it emerged that it was set to go on the open market for the first time in a century.
The National Galleries was only alerted that Diageo was planning to dispose of the painting - which had been on long-term loan to the National Museum of Scotland - after it had agreed to auctioned it off at Christie’s in London.
However behind-the-scenes talks led to Diageo agreeing to put the sale on hold and instead agree a “part-purchase, part-gift” deal, which gave the Galleries four months to raise the £4 million.
Sir John said: “I’m optimistic about where we are at the moment. I wouldn’t be going out and making a public noise about if I thought it was going to fail. To raise three quarters of a million pounds in the last month is do-able, but I’m not being in any way complacent about it. It’s still a lot of money by any standards.
“It would have been very hard, if not impossible, to raise the £4 million without the support of the HLF and the Art Fund together. The fact the painting wasn’t going to auction will have influenced them. The other £150,000 we have raised so far in donations is money in the bank, as it were. There are other people we’re still speaking to.
“The reason for launching a public campaign now is that small donations do make a difference. It really is a matter of ‘every little helps.’ Having a breadth of support really encourages others as well.”
Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “The Monarch of the Glen is an evocative painting which has earned global recognition. With the help of National Lottery players, we’re playing our part in securing it a permanent home at the National Galleries of Scotland.
“We very much hope the fundraising campaign will be successful and enable many more people to enjoy this beautiful and historic painting.”
Dr Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund said: “This technically superb picture is as interesting and provocative today as it was when first exhibited. I hope the public will support the this campaign.”
Sir Edwin Landseer’s 1851 masterpiece of a stag set against a remote Highland backdrop was described by Christie’s as “a great icon of European 19th century painting,”
The Monarch of the Glen was originally commissioned for the House of Lords, but never went on display and was bought from the artist by the sportsman Lord Londesborough for 350 guineas.
It had been on public display in Edinburgh for two decades under a loan between Diageo and the National Museum of Scotland.
However the whisky firm decided to put the painting up for sale as it does not have a link to any of its brands.
The Scottish Government intervened within hours to say it wanted the painting to remain on display in Scotland because of its “strong associations” with the country.