Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Jonathan Scott (1940-2012): CBE, FSA

Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Jonathan Scott (1940-2012): CBE, FSA

Article excerpt

In his role as chairman of both the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (1985-95) and the Acceptance-in-Lieu Panel (2000-10), Jonathan Scott oversaw the mechanisms by which the nation acquires material evidence of its history and culture. In his time such notable pieces of sculpture as Canova's Three Graces, from Woburn, were stopped from export. The Canova was acquired jointly by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Galleries of Scotland. Works accepted under the in-lieu scheme included sculptural objects at West Wycombe Park (National Trust); the sixteenth-century Dacre Beasts to the Victoria and Albert Museum; Joseph Nollekens' Clytie to Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Burnley; Henry Moore's Bird Basket (1939) to the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; and numerous pieces by Barbara Hepworth to Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Hepworth, Wakefield, National Museums Liverpool, Snape, Suffolk, and Tate St Ives. Two of Scott's three distinguished publications focused on the enduring European fascination with the Antique, as evidenced in its surviving sculpture.1

An address given at the Memorial Service, St Mary the Virgin and St Mary Magdalen, Tetbury, Gloucestershire on 7 February 2013

In the age in which we live, which sets such store by celebrity, facility and political correctness, Jonathan Scott was an outstanding and upstanding exception. I first met him in 2003 when he came as chairman on to the Acceptance-in-Lieu (AiL) Panel; acceptance-in-lieu being the system whereby, in Britain, works of cultural, historic and artistic significance are acquired by the nation for the nation in lieu of tax. His reputation from the Imperial War Museum (Trustee 1984-98), and the V&A, where he had been vice-chairman of Trustees (1996-2003), and the Export License Reviewing Committee, of which he was chairman, preceded him.

At his first AiL meeting he moved quietly into the chair with no show or rhetorical declaration of what he wanted to achieve or change, but within five minutes we knew that the panel was in safe hands, and that new standards were being set. Jonathan expected high standards. He brought out the best in panel members. We had to raise our game. He sat up straight in the chair, physically and intellectually. He was the least vain or showy chairman. He saw the job as a public duty, and the role as akin to that of a conductor, a counsel and, when necessary, an adjudicator: drawing on and drawing out the knowledge and experience of individual panel members (even when his own was superior, as was often the case). At the end of every meeting you felt that you had learnt something, and his dry humour and the twinkle in his eye ensured that you enjoyed yourself.

A panel meeting was never about him, always about the matters under consideration. He never hurried members, rarely showed the slightest impatience, but worked steadily through the most thorny agenda with calm dispatch. I can scarcely remember a single panel meeting going over time. He inherited several problems that had taxed us, sometimes for years. The future of Houghton had dragged on; as had the status of Port Eliot with its cache of thirty Reynoldses. He patiently found resolutions. Some cases gave him particular pleasure: Titian's Venus Anadyomene at the National Gallery of Scotland; the collection of Woottons in the Great Hall at Longleat; and the statuary at Castle Howard In pursuit of the right solution he was always courteous, but always firm. He believed strongly that the work of the panel should benefit the whole country, and that the best pictures and sculpture should not automatically go to the big, national galleries and museums. When the Tate applied for an excellent William Scott to be allocated to Millbank on the grounds that they were the collectors of Scott, there was a well-argued counter-application from the Cecil Higgins Gallery in Bedford. …

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