Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Masterpieces Must Be Kept in North' Campaigners Call to Keep Paintings Here

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Masterpieces Must Be Kept in North' Campaigners Call to Keep Paintings Here

Article excerpt

CALLS to keep the Zurbaran paintings in the North East were reissued yesterday as academics amassed in support of the art treasures.

Art and history experts gathered at Durham University's Grey College as part of growing opposition to the paintings' sale, urging church leaders to make the artefacts more accessible to North East families.

The works by Spanish Baroque artist Francisco Zurbaran are currently housed in Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, but have been subject to controversial plans to sell them for pounds 15m.

The Church has said the money is crucial for funding efforts in poorer areas of the county.

Yesterday Bishop Auckland Civic Society chairman Dr Bob McManners gave a talk on the history of the group of 13 large paintings of Jacob and his 12 sons which have hung at the traditional home of the Bishop of Durham since they were bought and taken there in 1756 by Bishop Richard Trevor.

Dr McManners, who was commissioned by the former Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, to write a book about the Zurbarans, had been invited by Henry Dyson, a fellow of Grey College, to give a lecture on the paintings before news of plans to sell them had emerged.

Around 70 supporters were in attendance at the event designed to boost the case for keeping the heritage items in the region. Dr Dyson said: "The Zurbarans are part of the North East heritage and should not be sold off.

"The Church Commissioners are guardians of the paintings but they are not theirs to sell. They belong to us all." Many at the lecture objected to the limited access to the paintings currently in place. They are only available for viewing on selected days.

Sarah Chamberlain, Grey College Association Secretary, said: "I am all in favour of the Zurbaran collection remaining in the North East, but nobody can expect the public to support a campaign to keep them here unless they are more accessible to the public at large. …

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