Descendants of Algernon Marsden help save Tissot portrait of great grandfather

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The National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery have come together to acquire the Portrait of Algernon Moses Marsden – with the help of his great grandson Sir Martyn Arbib.

The Victorian painting by Jacques Joseph Tissot, valued at £2.4 million, was at risk of leaving the UK when a temporary export bar was placed to allow time for a UK gallery or institution to acquire it in June.

In 1877, the French artist known as James Tissot in the UK was commissioned to paint Mr Marsden, who was an infamous figure in the Victorian art world.

National Gallery stock
A view of the main entrance of the National Gallery (John Stillwell/PA)

Mr Marsden would later become known for his appearances in bankruptcy courts, filing a string of bankruptcies just four years after the painting was complete.

However, the painting has become an icon of the Aesthetic movement despite having never been displayed during Tissot’s lifetime.

On Wednesday, it was announced the two galleries were able to acquire the painting following financial backing from Sir Martyn Arbib and his children.

Sir Martyn, great grandson of Algernon Marsden, said: “My children and I felt very strongly that the painting of our close relative, Algernon Marsden by James Tissot, should be saved for the nation, and we were delighted to provide the funding to allow the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery to do so.”

The painting will return to the National Gallery in 2024 to mark it Bicentenary.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “We are delighted to have acquired this important painting for the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, and look forward to working with Gabriele and his colleagues at the National Gallery to ensure it is displayed for years to come, for the enjoyment of our collective visitors.”

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, said: “We are very pleased to be collaborating with our friend and neighbour the National Portrait Gallery in ensuring this wonderful painting can remain on public view for everyone to enjoy, and we’d like to thank Sir Martyn Arbib and his family for his generosity in making this possible.”

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