Saved for the nation!
We are thrilled to announce a donation of £1.5 million from the Eyal Ofer Family Foundation to help enable the National Maritime Museum to purchase the kangaroo and the dingo by George Stubbs.
Thanks to this donation, along with significant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Monument Trust, the Art Fund, a number of generous individuals and the incredible support of countless visitors and members of the public, these remarkable paintings will now stay in the UK to be enjoyed by the widest possible audience.
Thank you to all those who supported our appeal by wearing a wristband, making a donation at the Museum or through our JustGiving page! Your support has helped the Museum meet the goal for the most ambitious acquisition appeal in its history.
Sir David Attenborough publicly supported the Museum’s appeal from the start. On hearing of the appeal’s success, he said:
“Exciting news that these two pictures, so important in the history of zoological discovery, are to remain where they were commissioned and painted.”
Please note: the paintings are currently undergoing conservation, and will be on display in the Queen's House from August.
About the paintings
These amazing paintings were inspired by Captain Cook’s first Pacific journey of discovery on the Endeavour in 1768, commissioned by a wealthy naturalist who accompanied the voyage and made sketches of the unknown specimens along the way.
Both outstandingly significant paintings were sold in late 2012 to a buyer outside the UK. In January 2013 the Department of Culture Media and Sport recommended the paintings should not leave the UK because:
- They are ‘so closely connected with our history and national life’
- They are of outstanding significance for the history of exploration, science, natural history and the study of 18th-century British art.
Exploration is a particularly rich theme for the National Maritime Museum, which already holds unrivalled collections relating to Cook’s three great voyages, including the Endeavour voyage. The acquisition of these works will greatly enhance the Museum’s world class art collection and its educational work with schools and families. They will also be central to the Museum’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Cook’s Endeavour voyage in 2018.
The works will initially go on display in the historic Queen’s House, part of the National Maritime Museum, in summer 2014. The Eyal Ofer Family Foundation’s donation, in addition to supporting the acquisition of the paintings, will also enable the re-presentation of the gallery space in the Queen’s House in which the kangaroo and dingo, together with other works of art that document and explore the theme of exploration, will be displayed. This is the first of a series of projects designed to enhance the seminal Queen’s House by Inigo Jones in time for its 400th anniversary in 2016. In recognition of this generous donation, the gallery space will be named “The Eyal Ofer Gallery”.
Britain’s first glimpse of Australian animals
Captain James Cook’s first Pacific journey of exploration was a voyage of discovery, taking in new lands, people and strange exotic florae and fauna.
Setting off in 1768 (–1771) on the HMS Endeavour Cook was joined by the wealthy naturalist Joseph Banks who was key to the scientific focus of the voyage. With two accompanying artists and a botanist, Banks made sketches and collected specimens of plants and animals unknown to 18th-century Europeans.
It was from these sketches, descriptions and the skins of animals that George Stubbs made these two unique paintings of a kangaroo and a dingo back in the UK. Stubbs was the foremost animal artist of the day and Joseph Banks commissioned him to draw and paint two animals from Australia via the use of an inflated Kongouro skin and a detailed description of a type of canine from this new land.
The two resulting artworks are Stubbs’ only studies of animals native to Australia. He exhibited both paintings at the Society of Artists in London in 1773 where they captured the imagination of the public and scientific communities.
The Museum has an unrivalled collection of objects relating to Cook’s three great Pacific voyages. It includes paintings by artists on board the second and third voyages (1772–75 and 1776–1780) alongside manuscripts, drawings, navigational instruments and objects from encounters with peoples of the Pacific region.
Central to the collection is the now famous portrait of Cook by Nathaniel Dance, which was displayed at Banks’s London home alongside these two paintings. For the first time since Banks’s death in 1820, they will be reunited and form the very core of our outstanding Cook collection.
The contemporary resonance of Cook’s three voyages of discovery is shown by NASA’s adoption of the names of his ships, Endeavour and Discovery for two of its Space Shuttles. In 2011 the crew of Discovery took one of the Museum’s Cook commemorative medals into space on its last mission. They later paid a visit to the Museum to return the medal which is now on display in the Voyagers gallery.