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Two new paintings now on display at the National Gallery

Issued April 2018

The first-ever painting by Juan de Zurbarán to enter a UK public collection and a teenage landscape by renowned portraitist John Singer Sargent have both gone on display in Trafalgar Square today (25 April 2018), after being acquired by the National Gallery.

'Still Life with Lemons, Lilies, Carnations, Roses and a Lemon Blossom in a Wicker Basket, together with a Goldfinch perched on a Porcelain Bowl of Water, on top of a Silver Tray, all arranged upon a Stone Ledge' was painted in about 1643–49 by Spanish Baroque artist Juan de Zurbarán.

Long overshadowed by his more famous father, Francisco, Juan de Zurbarán is one of the greatest still-life painters of 17th-century Spain. His works are extremely rare: barely a dozen paintings survive, all of them still lifes. Having trained with his father in Seville, Juan’s career was cruelly cut short in 1649 by the plague that halved the city´s population. He was just 29 years old.

In this monumental canvas, gorgeous outsize lemons fill the basket and sprigs of red lilies, blue delphiniums, red carnations, and a delicate lemon blossom lean out from among them. A goldfinch perches on the lip of a Chinese imported ceramic bowl filled with water. Previously unknown and unpublished, this work was recently discovered in a Spanish private collection by Sotheby's, who negotiated its sale to the National Gallery.

'Still Life with Lemons in a Wicker Basket' has been acquired thanks to the support of individuals who have given money through the National Gallery Trust, a charity which exists to further the aims of the Gallery, and the American Friends of the National Gallery.

John Singer Sargent was born in Florence to American parents and was astoundingly precocious. At the age of 19 he painted Wineglasses – a study of a sun-dappled veranda, probably at St-Enogat in Brittany where he spent the summer of 1875 – shortly after seeing the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris. He gave the painting to his teacher, the French painter Carolus-Duran. The swirls of blue pigment on the surface of the wine, the effects of mottled sunlight on the tablecloth and floor, and the sensation of leisurely ease the picture conveys, all show how attentive he was to the artistic innovations of Monet and Renoir.

'Wineglasses' has been allocated to the National Gallery in accordance with the wishes of its last owner under the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme, which enables taxpayers to transfer works of art and important heritage objects into public ownership while paying tax.

National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, says:

“New pictures help to expand our understanding of the European painting tradition and enrich the story the Gallery tells, so we are delighted that both these extraordinary pictures now belong to everyone, including future generations, and from today can be enjoyed by all for free in Trafalgar Square.”

He added:

“The National Gallery is fortunate to have one of the strongest collections of Spanish Golden Age paintings in the world. This exceptional Juan de Zurbarán acquisition – which has been cleaned at the Gallery, revealing its rich colours and superb state of conservation – not only enables us to tell a much richer story about the development of Spanish still-life painting, but also reunites the work of father and son. We currently only have one work by John Singer Sargent in the National Gallery Collection – his portrait of Lord Ribblesdale – so we are very pleased to have been allocated one of his landscapes, which also allows us to demonstrate more fully on the walls of the National Gallery, the effect the Impressionists had on their fellow artists.”

'Still Life with Lemons in a Wicker Basket' can now be seen in Room 30 alongside masterpieces of Spanish 17th-century painting by Velázquez, Zurbarán, and Murillo. 'Wineglasses' is on display in Room 44, together with works by Monet, Renoir, and other Impressionists.


Juan de Zurbarán was born in Llerena, north of Seville, in 1620. Around 1629 the family moved to Seville, where Juan trained in his father’s workshop and where, in 1641, he made a spectacular marriage to Mariana de Quadros, the wealthy daughter of a procurator in the Real Audiencia of Seville. This marriage brought him a considerable dowry of 50,000 'reales' and resulted in two children, but it was short-lived. Juan died in 1649 at the age of just 29 as a result of a plague epidemic. By the time of his death, much of the money had been squandered. Since his rediscovery in 1938, Juan de Zurbarán has joined the pantheon of great Spanish still-life painters. Long overshadowed by the fame of his father, the artist Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan’s paintings are now recognised for their powerful creativity and original contribution to the still-life or 'bodegón' tradition of the Spanish Golden Age. The National Gallery currently has four works by Francisco de Zurbarán in its collection, including one still life, A Cup of Water and a Rose (currently on display in the National Gallery exhibition Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE).

John Singer Sargent was born in Florence in 1856 to American parents. His childhood was spent touring Europe, mainly in Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany. In 1874 he entered the Paris studio of Carolus-Duran, where he stayed as student and assistant until 1878. He visited America in 1876, and the following year exhibited his first portrait at the Paris Salon. He travelled to Spain and Morocco (1879–80), Haarlem (1880) where he copied works by Velázquez and Frans Hals. He lived in Paris until 1884 and then settled in London in 1885. Sargent's international reputation as a portraitist reached its peak in the 1890s and early 1900s, and he painted many of the distinguished personalities of his day. Many of his clients were Americans: Roosevelt, Rockefeller, and Lady Randolph Churchill. By 1910 he had given up painting all but the occasional portrait, devoting himself to landscapes and murals. The National Gallery currently has one other work by Sargent in its collection – the 1902 portrait of Lord Ribblesdale.

Juan de Zurbarán (1620–1649)
'Still Life with Lemons, Lilies, Carnations, Roses and a Lemon Blossom in a Wicker Basket, together with a Goldfinch perched on a Porcelain Bowl of Water, on top of a Silver Dish, arranged upon a Stone Ledge'
Short title: 'Still Life with Lemons in a Wicker Basket'
About 1643–49     
Oil on canvas
81 x 109 cm
© The National Gallery, London

John Singer Sargent, RA (1856–1925)
Probably 1875
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 2018
Oil on canvas
45 x 37.5 cm
© The National Gallery, London


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