Press Release

Major work by William Stott of Oldham secured for the British Public at Tate

William Stott of Oldham, Le Passeur 1881 Tate

William Stott of Oldham, Le Passeur 1881 Oil paint on canvas 1095 x 2150 mm Tate

Le Passeur (The Ferryman) purchased for Tate to be shown at Tate Britain alongside key British Impressionist works before touring to Pembrokeshire, Southampton, Oldham and Aberdeen

Widely regarded as the crowning achievement of the artist’s career, Le Passeur (The Ferryman) 1881 by William Stott of Oldham (1847 -1900) has been secured for the British public through major gifts from The National Lottery, The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation and Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation).

The work will tour to four UK-partner galleries: Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre, Southampton City Art Gallery, Gallery Oldham and Aberdeen Art Gallery, thanks to The National Lottery, the John Ellerman Foundation and Art Fund.

The painting, considered one of the key moments in the breakthrough to naturalism in British art of the 1880s, established Stott as one of the most progressive British artists of his day. It will be shown first at Tate Britain as part of a Spotlight display on the artist and his contemporaries, including Edward Stott, George Clausen and James Guthrie; artists whose work Stott’s was said to influence. These artists, key figures in the British Impressionist movement and mainly based in the north of England, were noted for their naturalist works in rural environments. This emphasis and this display make the subsequent tour of the Stott masterpiece particularly pertinent.

One work in the display, by Arthur Melville, Audrey and Her Goats, has been restored by Tate and will be on display for the first time in nearly one hundred years. First shown at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1890, the work was highly controversial, owing to its bold brush work which was described as aggressive. The work belonged to W Graham Robertson, who bequeathed it to Tate in 1925. The restoration of Audrey and her Goats was made possible through the generosity of the Finnis Scott Foundation, the Charlotte Bonham-Carter Charitable Trust and donations from the general public to the Tate Fund.

William Stott was a leading figure in the group of British artists who came under the influence of French naturalism in the late nineteenth century. After Manchester School of Art he trained in Paris under Bonnat and Gérôme and went on to exhibit a number of paintings at the Paris Salon which were much admired by French critics. There are 23 paintings in British public collections by Stott, the majority of which are in Gallery Oldham, the artist’s home town. This work joins one other in Tate’s collection by him, Prince or Shepherd? (Prince or Berger?) 1880.

An exquisite painting, Le Passeur transforms the Tate collection in its presentation of what British Impressionism could achieve in an international context. It will join other British Impressionist works such as Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Six-foot long, the picture is a delicate tonalist rendition of dusk on the river at Grez.

When the work goes on tour, bespoke displays at each of the partner venues will be complemented by a programme of learning activities and resources engaging diverse audiences with the work of William Stott and the story of British Impressionism. A related skills exchange programme will reach at least 100 museums, galleries and other institutions across the UK from 2017. A series of workshops for staff and volunteers will build capacity to share artworks and champion the ongoing development and legacy of registrar skills across the regions and nations. Workshop participants will be eligible to apply for a strategic bursary to support the cost of loans from Tate’s National Collection of British Art.

Alex Farquharson, Director Tate Britain said, ‘We are delighted to be showing this significant work at Tate Britain before it tours to St Davids Pembrokeshire, Southampton, the artist’s home town of Oldham and Aberdeen. We are hugely grateful for the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation) and The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation for securing this painting for the nation, and to HLF, the John Ellerman Foundation and Art Fund for their support of the tour. By reaching audiences beyond the walls of Tate in all parts of the UK, we can further continue Tate’s mission to promote public understanding and enjoyment of art.’

The Spotlight display of Le Passeur is at Tate Britain until 4 February 2018 and is curated by Alison Smith, Lead Curator, 19th Century British Art.