Lucian Freud estate: Edgar Degas sculpture is inheritance tax gift to museum

Oliver Fairclough, the museum's keeper of art, explains how the artwork is an unexpected addition to its collection

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A bronze sculpture of a galloping horse by the 19th Century French Impressionist Edgar Degas is going on display in Cardiff.

The bronze has been donated in lieu of inheritance tax from the estate of the late artist Lucian Freud.

Freud had strong links with Wales, training under Welsh artist Sir Cedric Morris and working here in the 1940s,

The National Museum of Art called the sculpture a stunning addition.

The Degas bronze has been considered to be the largest and perhaps the greatest of the 15 horse figures found in the artist's studio after his death.

The work appears to be based on contemporary stop-action photography and reflects the artist's love of horses and the race course.

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud in 1958
  • Grandson of Sigmund Freud
  • Born 1922, his family moved to Britain from Germany in 1933 to escape persecution
  • Spent most of working life in London's Paddington as its sleaziness appealed
  • Trained under Welsh artist Sir Cedric Morris at the East Anglia School of Painting and Drawing
  • Spent a period working in Wale in the 1940s, and a watercolour by him of Tenby harbour is in the Welsh collection
  • Works in public ownership include a portrait of Sir Cedric Morris in National Museum Wales
  • Died in 2011 and specified in his will that artworks should be donated in lieu of inheritance tax

David Anderson, director general of the museum, said: "This new sculpture will be a major addition to our collection, of which we can all be proud."

He said the Degas joins two other contrasting works by the artist in the museum's Davies Sisters collection of French art.

Anne Pritchard, the museum's curator of historic art, said the sculpture was a "wonderful example" of Degas' work and was made all the more special because of the link with Freud.

Start Quote

It looks as though it's about to leap off the table”

End Quote Anne Prichard National Museum Wales

"There are about 15 existing different sculptures of horses by Degas and this is the largest one. It doesn't look very large but he only actually did sculptures as studies for his paintings or even for for his drawings.

"So he was using them like an artist might use a sketch of a landscape.

"He was trying to get to be familiar with the subject and so here we have this beautiful horse that he's caught mid movement, on the gallop with its front legs raised and only the hind legs actually supporting most of the sculpture. It looks as though it's about to leap off the table."

The horse sculpture is one of three by Degas, as well as a painting by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, that have been acquired for the nation from Lucian Freud's estate through the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme.

Edgar Degas

  • French Impressionist painter, printmaker and sculptor 1834-1917
  • He was an early pioneer of Impressionism, although he disliked the term.
  • Today he is best known for his paintings of ballet dancers and race horses.
  • In the 1880s, an eye infection weakened Degas' sight. He was forced to focus increasingly on sculpture over painting. His sculptures were as ground-breaking as his paintings
  • Two other Degas sculptures already in National Museum Wales' collection
  • National Museum Wales also has a Degas pastel 'Woman Getting out of the Bath'

The acceptance of the four works paid £2.3m of inheritance tax.

The bronze was allocated to the National Museum Wales after it applied to a special panel.

All four works give a glimpse into the artistic tastes of Lucian Freud, who was one of the most significant artists of the last century. All are reflective of his lifelong interest in the female figure and animals, two themes of his own artistic output.

The museum has acquired a number of works through the inheritance tax scheme in recent years including a Thomas Gainsborough painting called 'Rocky Wooded Landscape with Rustic Lovers, Herdsman and Cows'.

The latest acquisition was unveiled at the Cardiff museum on Wednesday by Culture Minister John Griffiths.

The minister said: "I'm confident that this beautiful work will be a popular draw with visitors and give people yet another reason to come and visit our world-class art galleries."

National Museum Cardiff, which has extended its collection with a new art museum, had more than 477,000 visitors in 2012-13, a 29% increase on 2010-2011.

Mr Anderson added: "When we opened the National Museum of Art our aim was to display a broad range of works, which would appeal to a wide audience. Our visitor figures over the last 24 months prove that we're succeeding. I hope visitors will continue to come and enjoy, learn about and be inspired by works such as Degas."

Culture Minister John Griffiths unveiled the sculpture at the museum Culture Minister John Griffiths unveiled the sculpture at the museum

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