Dearly Held British Painting on Display at the Schnitzer

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), May 28, 2009 | Go to article overview

Dearly Held British Painting on Display at the Schnitzer


Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

A 19th century English landscape painting with a fascinating recent history has gone on display at the University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

"Pope's Villa at Twickenham," which was painted in 1808 by English art superstar J.M.W. Turner, caused a national flap in the United Kingdom last year after it was sold at auction in London at Sotheby's for a reported $10.7 million to an anonymous American collector.

The Brits were appalled - first that the painting's owner, the socialite Lady Elizabeth Ashcombe, would sell the painting at all, and second that it was being bought by an American. The painting had been owned by the same family for more than 180 years.

Lady Ashcombe explained that selling the painting was necessary to help maintain the family's crumbling Sudeley Castle in Glou cestershire.

Established before the Norman invasion of 1066, the castle once was owned by Richard III and later was the site of a spectacular three-day feast helping Queen Elizabeth I celebrate the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

More recently, it was thought to be the model for comic novelist P.G. Wodehouse's fictional Blandings Castle. More seriously, it was the subject of a BBC investigation, "Crisis at the Castle," exploring the difficulty faced by a contemporary aristocratic family in maintaining such a cultural landmark.

Lady Ashcombe recently has resorted to offering paid tours and renting out the castle grounds for weddings to maintain a positive cash flow. Actress Elizabeth Hurley, a friend of Lady Ashcombe's son, married Indian textile heir Arun Nayar there in 2007.

But back to Turner's painting.

As soon as it was auctioned off, the government stepped in to keep the painting on British soil.

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