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Acquired for the nation - the National Gallery allocated Bonington’s 'On the Seine - Morning' under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme

Issued August 2019

'On the Seine – Morning' (about 1825) by Richard Parkes Bonington (1802–1828), one of the most significant artists of the early 19th century and a contemporary of Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable, has been allocated to the National Gallery under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, administered by Arts Council England.

The work of Bonington is vital to our understanding of French and British art of the Romantic period. He was a keen traveller and spent much of his time on sketching tours, which resulted in many light-filled representations of northern France and Venice, painted in both watercolour and oil. Bonington died tragically young from tuberculosis at the age of 25.

'On the Seine – Morning' may be an imaginary composition rather than a plein-air study. In 1825–6 the artist made a number of these compositions in which he arranged trees, rivers, and buildings in different combinations inspired by his observation of landscapes in France, as well as by the work of Turner. The more substantial manner in which the boats are painted makes a marked contrast with the ethereal representation of the groups of trees, particularly those in the centre, the whole tied together by the reflections on the still water. The tall mast on the right adds a contrasting vertical accent and signals the luminosity of the sky, a notable aspect of Bonington’s achievements as a painter.

This is only the second painting by Bonington to enter the Gallery’s collection, the first being La Ferté, which was allocated to the Gallery under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme in 2012.

The acquisition of 'On the Seine – Morning' allows us to highlight the close relationship between British and French paintings of this period, making interesting parallels with paintings already in the collection. In its representation of a tree-lined river and the small red-clothed figure on the right, the painting can be connected to the work of Constable, in particular National Gallery works such as Stratford Mill, The Cornfield, and The Hay Wain, which won the artist a gold medal at the 1824 Paris Salon (on the same occasion Bonington too won a gold medal). It also has a relationship with Constable’s looser, 'plein-air' paintings in the Gallery’s collection, such as Weymouth Bay: Bowleaze Cove and Jordon Hill.

National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi said:

'Bonington is an important and rare artist and this evocative and atmospheric view of the River Seine is a superb example of his work. We are grateful to HM Government, the Arts Council England, and the Acceptance in Lieu Panel for enabling it to join the National Gallery's collection for all to enjoy.'

Edward Harley, Chair of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel, said,

'This beautiful, small landscape painting, executed in the brief period of Bonington’s artistic maturity before his death at 25, demonstrates his mastery at evoking the subtle transition from foreground to distance through light and atmosphere. I am thrilled that the Acceptance in Lieu scheme has enabled this work to be acquired on behalf of the public for display at the National Gallery.'

'On the Seine – Morning' can now be seen in Gallery F hanging alongside other landscape oil sketches by artists such as Corot, Degas, Denis, Huet, Lord Leighton, Rousseau, and Watts.

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The acceptance of the painting settled £643,365 of tax.

The Acceptance in Lieu scheme is administered by the Arts Council. The Acceptance in Lieu Panel, chaired by Edward Harley, advises on whether property offered in lieu is of suitable importance and offered at a value which is fair to both nation and taxpayer. AIL allows those who have a bill to Inheritance Tax to pay the tax by transferring important cultural, scientific or historic objects to the nation. Material accepted under the scheme is allocated to public collections and is available for all. In the last decade this important government initiative has brought over £330m worth of treasures into public ownership for the enjoyment of all - see more here

The Arts Council is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Richard Parkes Bonington (1802–1828) was born of English parents, but spent much of his short life in France. He studied initially in Calais with Louis Francia before moving to Paris. In 1818 he first met Eugène Delacroix and enrolled in the atelier of Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, where he formed a lasting friendship with fellow pupil Paul Huet. He was one of the stars of the 1824 Paris Salon, where British art was so triumphant, and along with Constable and Copley Fielding received a gold medal. Bonington was a seasoned traveller and spent much time exploring the north coast of France. In 1825 he visited London with several French artists, including Delacroix, and in 1826 he travelled through Switzerland to Venice. His range included history and subject paintings, and landscapes, highly finished works and sketches, all imbued with a brilliance and sureness of touch which was greatly admired both during and after his lifetime.


Richard Parkes Bonington (1802–1828)
On the Seine – Morning, about 1825
Oil on millboard
30.2 x 35 cm
© The National Gallery, London

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