Showing a young woman lost in thought, sat on an elaborately-inlaid ivory chair, it is an example of one of his generation’s leading artists at the peak of powers.
A Reverie was created by York-born painter Albert Moore in 1892, a year before his death, and praised for its beauty as well as the “extraordinary care” taken over its details.
The masterpiece is perhaps the most important of his paintings still in private hands and has a price-tag to match, with £3.6m needed to buy the piece for the public from its current international owner.
Earlier this year, York Art Gallery launched a campaign to acquire the work “so it stays in the city for generations of visitors to enjoy”. And today the bid moved a significant step forward with the announcement that The Friends of York Art Gallery had made a donation of £180,000 towards the project.
The donation, which includes bequests of £160,000 and £20,000, will be put towards the total needed to buy the painting, and the group has also agreed to continue to fund-raise to help the gallery reach its target.
A Reverie is currently on show in the York gallery as part of Albert Moore: Of Beauty and Aesthetics, the first monographic exhibition of Moore’s work since a memorial exhibition in 1894, a year after his death.
A Reverie is quintessential Moore, a stunning masterpiece of design and execution.Peter Gibbard
Peter Gibbard, chairman of the friends group, said: “A Reverie is quintessential Moore, a stunning masterpiece of design and execution. Because of Moore’s painstaking working methods, he produced a comparatively small number of paintings. Very few now remain outside museums and this may be the last opportunity for York Art Gallery to secure one of this quality and size, which the leading Moore scholar Robyn Asleson calls ‘perhaps his most important picture still in private hands’.
“We are proud to support this campaign to try and ensure it has a permanent home in York where it would honour the memory of a great Yorkshireman.”
Rebecca Williams, fundraising manager for York Museums Trust, said: “We are thrilled that the Friends of York Art Gallery have made such a significant pledge towards the purchase of this hugely important work.
“It is incredibly important to have the support of organisations in the city like the Friends, so we can show there is a real appetite for this wonderful painting to have a permanent home here in York, Moore’s home city.”
A Reverie shows a young woman, relaxed in pose, deep in thought. She is draped in apricot and fawn and wears a double row of beads and a cap. A critic from The Times described the work as ‘beautiful’ and added: “A Reverie is as might be expected from Mr Moore, the figure of a girl in a Greek dress, and thus far it does not differ essentially from scores of other pictures by him.
“But the extraordinary care which he has employed upon the details of the picture, upon the pearl-inlaid chair in which the girl is seated, upon the hangings and the floor, mark out the work as something exceptional.
“Few painters move within so narrow a range as Mr Albert Moore, but few also attain so much perfection within it.”
The painting is being sold by Agnews Gallery in London. York Art Gallery’ staff are now applying to funding bodies including the Heritage Lottery Fund but would welcome public donations. For more information email Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born in 1841, Albert Moore was the son of a portrait painter and brother of the painter and watercolourist Henry Moore.
He became known for his depictions of languorous female figures set against the luxury and decadence of the classical world.
Turnng his attention to classical subjects by the 1860s, the influence of classical sculpture dominated Moore’s output in his later years. Single Grecian figures or groups posed in an elaborate fashion were regular features. His work is now represented in important public collections, such as those of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and elsewhere.