An anonymous donor has stepped in at the last moment to prevent the export to Warwickshire of a rare and treasured Frank Henry McNightly painting believed to worth in excess of £500. Originally loaned to the Royal Dorset Academy by its owner, the 13" x 13" oil "Femme d'âge moyen en attente du numero 6 autobus" was recently put up for auction and a campaign launched to purchase it outright. Under the Dorset (East) Temporary Suspension of Extra-County Exports in Exceptional Circumstances (Fine Art Treasures) By-Law, the RDA was given six months to match the winning auction bid and thereby prevent the removal of the picture to a foreign territory.
Relieved RDA Curator and McNightly expert Art Fluxus told a packed press gallery: "we are delighted and relieved in equal measure though it was a close run thing. By last evening our high profile campaign had raised £3.40 and we feared the worse, but an emergency "shake-down" of Academy staff boosted the total by £2.60 and we knew we were getting closer". However it took an extraordinary donation of £494 to get the purchase "over the line".
A condition of the gift was that the donor should remain anonymous and Mr Fluxus would not be drawn with regard to the benefactor's identity: "all I can say is that the donor is female, lives locally and is a prominent businesswoman".
The picture itself - a Parisian scene dating from just before the First World War - is a particularly fine example of McNightly's "Just before the First World War" Period, sometimes nominated his "Parisian" Style. It was a favourite of the artist and reamained in his personal possession until he gave it to his great niece Mrs Edna Whisky-McNightly who loaned it to the DRA in 2002. A spokesperson for Mrs Whisky-McNightly said: "Mrs Whisky-McNightly is pleased that the picture will remain in Dorset where it truly belongs. She is even more delighted that she will soon have the cash in hand as she has ambitious plans to modernise the futons in her ageing Winnebego".
It is believed that the DRA will be offering a limited edition reproduction of the print at a future date. Proceeds will go towards the costs of transporting the picture back to the RDA from the Sotherbones Auction House in Litton Cheney where it has been "in limbo" since February.
"Femme d'âge moyen en attente du numero 6 autobus" by Frank Henry McNightly. It has been the subject of a major campaign to save it for Dorset.