In 2011, Yorkshire art lovers will – hopefully – also be able to continue to enjoy Pieter Brueghel's 1602 painting The Procession to Calvary thanks to the charity. The work has been hanging in Nostell Priory for more than 200 years, but the painting, which is still owned by Lord St Oswald, was earlier this year offered for sale. Amid fears it might end up overseas or in a private gallery, the Art Fund stepped in to raise 2.7m in partnership with the National Trust.
In December, almost 2m had been raised and it if it does, as expected, raise enough to buy the epic painting, it will be yet another success story for the charity. Established in 1903, the Art Fund – or the National Art Collections Fund, to give it its full title – provides grants to museums and organisations so they can buy works of art for the nation. One of the stipulations is that whatever is bought must be available for members of the public to enjoy.
The Art Fund's founding members in 1903 were a small group of private enthusiasts determined to halt a trend of artworks being sold overseas From the start, it was conceived as a membership organisation, with a modest annual subscription of one guinea to enable as many people as possible to join.
A noble idea, the Art Fund proved no flash in the pan and today gives grants of between 4m to 5m each year, with money raised from its 80,000 members, charitable donations and trusts.
That it receives no funding from the Government is significant at a time when funding for the arts is in crisis and ever decreasing. Some of the funding brought to the region by the Art Fund in recent years includes:
In 2007, a grant of 50,000 was given to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby towards a total cost of over 240,000 for a group of drawings of Kamchatkan natives by John Webber.
In 2009, a grant of 40,000 to York Art Gallery towards a total cost of 120,000 for the William Etty painting, Preparing for a Fancy Dress Ball (Charlotte and Mary Williams-Wynn)
Also in 2009, a grant of 40,000 was given to Temple Newsam House in Leeds towards a total cost of 95,000 for a pair of Silver Ewers designed by Boulton and Fothergill.
In 2006, the Art Fund also made its first ever major commission, providing almost 800,000 to allow American artist James Turrell to create Deer Shelter, a permanent installation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
"Over the years the Art Fund has given grants of over 4.6m to museums and galleries in Yorkshire," Dr Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund. "Everyone should have access to great art and we strive to support that goal and by bringing together the contributions of all our members and supporters we've shown that it's possible to play a part in enriching the range and quality of what we see in our galleries today.
It is vitally important that galleries continue to add to their collections so that they can continue to be lively, relevant and interesting places that people want to visit. New additions to museums' collections can be extremely valuable in terms of opening up new avenues of research and bringing together objects that simply belong together, but mostly it is about creating great museums that the art-loving and museum-going public wants to see."
Within two years of being established back in 1903, the Art Fund had bought for the nation's pleasure Whistler's Nocturne in Blue and Gold which it presented to the National Gallery of British Art (now Tate) and in 1906 it bought Velzquez's Rokeby Venus following a public campaign and presented it to the National Gallery.
As a result, King Edward VII became the first royal patron of the charity These stunning works of art are not only bought with the donations of wealthy individuals – many of the 80,000 members pay around 45 each year for membership.
Dr Deuchar says: "In a small but significant way every single one of our 80,000 members is a patron of the arts. As a member, when you go to galleries across the UK you can really see what your modest subscription has bought."
For details about the Art Fund call 0844 415 4100 or visit artfund.org