Northern Ireland

Renoir painting a first for public collection in Northern Ireland

Renoir’s work is a coup for the Ulster Museum (PressEye/PA)
Renoir’s work is a coup for the Ulster Museum (PressEye/PA) Renoir’s work is a coup for the Ulster Museum (PressEye/PA)

The Ulster Museum in Belfast has secured the first French impressionist painting in a public collection in the north.

The rare landscape by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), L’Allee Au Bois, has been acquired by National Museums NI and is on display at the museum.

Renoir was one of the leaders of impressionism in Paris during the 1870s and 1880s.

At that time impressionist painters were creating an entirely new style of painting using fragmented brush strokes to evoke the changing colours and myriad qualities of light.

L’Allee Au Bois was painted in a wood near Paris around 1874-1880.

Renoir’s delicate brushstrokes are described as combining to give the viewer the sense of entering a woodland where a light breeze gently rustles the leaves and grasses in the heat of a summer’s afternoon.

Anne Stewart, senior curator of art at National Museums NI, said the acquisition is a significant moment for Northern Ireland.

“More than 100 years after his death, Renoir remains a renowned impressionist artist and his revolutionary landscapes are celebrated worldwide,” she said.

“Acquisitions reflect a time and a place, and in the case of this exquisite impressionist painting, the beauty of a light-filled wood suggests escape, well-being, healing, and security.

“We are delighted to welcome a Renoir into the national collection and offer the Northern Ireland public the opportunity to experience the beauty of French impressionism by such a renowned artist.”

L’Allee Au Bois was allocated to the Ulster Museum as an acceptance in lieu from the estate of Sheran, Lady Hornby, in memory of her uncle, Major Victor Cazalet (1896-1943).

The Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, administered by the Arts Council, enables inheritance tax, which would be payable on the basis of the value of a deceased person’s estate, to be paid by transferring ownership of significant objects to the nation.

It is a key initiative for the UK’s charities and museums as they look to enhance and develop their collections

Helen Birchenough, chairwoman of the acceptance in lieu panel, said she hoped this example will encourage others to use the scheme.

“I am delighted that L’Allee Au Bois by Pierre-Auguste Renoir has been acquired by Ulster Museum through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, in a hybrid agreement with funding from the Department for Communities (for Northern Ireland), the Art Fund, The Esmé Mitchell Trust and the Friends of Ulster Museum,” she said.

“The painting will be a wonderful addition to the collection at Ulster Museum which had no previous examples of paintings by the French impressionists.

“I hope that this example will encourage others to use the scheme and continue to support our national collections.”

Jenny Waldman, director of the Art Fund, said the painting will be enjoyed by the Northern Ireland public for many generations.

“Renoir’s exquisite sun-dappled Parisian woodland is a brilliant addition to National Museums NI’s important collection.

“I’m delighted we’ve been able to support this acquisition, which is the first Impressionist painting to enter a public collection in Northern Ireland and will be enjoyed by the public for many generations,” she said.

Kathryn Thomson, chief executive of National Museums NI added: “Art remains central to our offering here at Ulster Museum, and it’s incredibly important to us to continue enhancing our collection so audiences have access to masterpieces such as this.

“Art has different meaning to different people, and can be a medium to promote understanding of the world past and present.”

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