Press Release

Leading artists support public appeal to save The Blue Rigi

Tate Britain  Room 15
22 January – 25 March 2007

Today, The Art Fund, the UK’s leading art charity, and Tate, are launching a public appeal to help save Turner’s The Blue Rigi for the nation. £2.45 million needs to be raised by 20 March towards a total price of £4.95 million to prevent the work entering a private collection abroad. The charity also announced it was pledging £500,000, one of The Art Fund’s largest ever grants, towards the fundraising campaign.

Members of the public will be able to pledge their support online by ‘buying a brushstroke’ from The Blue Rigi, by visiting a special website created for online donations at www.artfund.org/savebluerigi. To launch the campaign several leading artists have bought brushstrokes to support the appeal including David Hockney, Peter Blake, Michael Craig-Martin, Martin Creed, Jeremy Deller, Peter Doig, Antony Gormley, Howard Hodgkin, Anish Kapoor, Fiona Rae, Bridget Riley, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread. Each online brushstroke costs £5 and the aim is to have raised £300,000 when the image is complete.

The Blue Rigi was sold at auction on 5 June 2006 for the record price of £5.8 million making it the most expensive British watercolour ever sold. A temporary export bar has been placed on the painting until 20 March 2007 by the Culture Minister, David Lammy.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said:

The Blue Rigi represents the very pinnacle of Turner’s achievement in watercolour – the medium which he revolutionised and of which he was perhaps the supreme master. There is very little chance of Tate ever acquiring another Turner watercolour of this stature again. It would be a huge shame if we didn’t do everything we could to secure it for public enjoyment for generations to come.

In December last year Tate announced it was allocating £2 million of its own funds towards The Blue Rigi and that it was bringing together, for the first time ever, the three Rigi paintings in an exhibition opening at Tate Britain on 22 January 2007. Tate has also made a funding application to the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate, said:

I am delighted that The Art Fund recognises the importance of saving Turner’s The Blue Rigi from going abroad by awarding Tate one of the largest grants in its history. With Tate’s commitment of £2 million – the highest sum ever allocated from Tate funds towards an acquisition – we are now halfway towards our goal. We are in a race against time to raise the remaining funds. I hope by launching this public appeal with The Art Fund we will ignite the public’s support in saving this truly exceptional watercolour by one of Britain’s greatest painters.

Turner’s late Swiss watercolours have remained one of the most highly regarded aspects of his output. Within this grouping the three views of Mount Rigi are seen as especially important. Each Rigi painting captures the mountain at a different time of day and is characterised by a defining colour or tone: Dark, Blue or Red. The Red Rigi has been in the National Gallery of Melbourne since 1947, but the The Blue Rigi and The Dark Rigi have been, until this year, in private collections.

The Blue Rigi , which is in exceptional condition, would be the only finished watercolour from the Swiss series of the 1840s to enter the Tate Collection. Painted in 1842, The Blue Rigi is regarded as amongst the finest achievements not only of Turner, but the watercolour medium as a whole. John Ruskin, the pre-eminent art critic of the time, wrote of the Rigi paintings that ‘Turner had never made any drawings like these before, and never made any like them again… He is not showing his hand in these, but his heart.’ Turner captures the mountain just before dawn when the rising sun begins to chase away the cool darkness of night. The Turner Bequest at Tate includes a tonal study for The Blue Rigi providing a unique context for the understanding and enjoyment of this masterpiece. The bequest also contains atmospheric colour impressions of the Rigi dating from Turner’s final visits to Lucerne in the 1840s, including those in the ‘Lucerne’ sketchbook of 1844 – some of which will be on show as part of Tate’s exhibition.

Donations to the appeal can be made online at www.artfund.org/savebluerigi or by phone on 0870 848 2033. Cheques made payable to ‘The Art Fund’ can be sent to The Art Fund, Freepost LON 17186, PO Box 2003, Kirkcaldy KY2 6BR.