£4M saves Monarch of the Glen for the nation

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The Monarch of the Glen, the iconic Highland landscape painting of a stag by Sir Edwin Landseer, has been acquired for the nation by the National Galleries of Scotland, following a public fundraising campaign.

The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) had until Friday (March 17) to meet the £4 million price tag, to avoid it being sold on the open market and potentially leaving Scotland.

The painting’s owner, drinks giant Diageo, agreed to gift half its market value, estimated at £10m, to allow NGS the opportunity to acquire it.

After securing support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund, NGS launched a public fundraising campaign last month, called Help Save the Stag, to help raise the final £750,000 needed to honour the agreement.

Support for the public campaign came from around the world, with donations received from Anchorage, Queensland, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, and from across the UK from Thurso to Bath, totalling more than £250,000. An additional £100,000 from the NGS acquisition fund – made up of funding from the Scottish Government and donations from private trusts and foundations – enabled the £4 million target to be reached.

Now in public ownership, the painting is set to become one of the key attractions at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Plans will also be developed for a tour to a number of venues across Scotland, starting later this year.

The Monarch of the Glen, painted in 1851, possibly at Glenorchy, depicts ‘a monumental stag imperiously surveying the rugged landscape; gorse and bracken are in the foreground and dramatic cliff faces and escarpments form the backdrop’, the NGS describes.

‘The stag is superbly defined, with every detail precisely established, from the texture of its fur to the moisture around its nostrils. He is a so-called “royal” or 12-point stag – a reference to the number of tines on his antlers.

‘[It] is one of the most famous paintings of the 19th century and an iconic image which for many encapsulates the grandeur and majesty of Scotland’s Highlands and wildlife.’

Sir John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: ‘We are thrilled that we have been able to secure this iconic work for the national collection. The enormous support from the public has been incredible with donations coming from all over the world, and from the length and breadth of Scotland and the rest of the UK.

‘Thank you so much to everyone who has donated. Your gift has helped to ensure that this magnificent work will be enjoyed by millions of people for generations to come.’

Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, said: ‘I am delighted that National Galleries of Scotland has secured the funding required to ensure the iconic Monarch of the Glen can remain on permanent public display in Scotland.

‘The overwhelmingly positive response to the public fundraising campaign underlines the importance of the painting to people in Scotland and around the world. I am pleased the Scottish Government was able to provide £100,000 towards its acquisition and a further £75,000 for a tour that will enable communities across Scotland to see it.’

The painting was initially conceived as part of a series of three works which would have been displayed in the House of Lords, but this was deemed to be inappropriate and so it was soon sold to a private collector. From the moment it was first exhibited in 1851 at the Royal Academy it proved immensely popular. In the Royal Academy catalogue it was associated with a poem called Legends of Glenorchy. There is debate over whether this helps identify the site; Glen Quoich has also been proposed.