The Grand Chantrey Stakes

Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below. Any auction prices quoted may not include all fees and taxes, such as VAT and Artist's Resale Right charges.

The Grand Chantrey Stakes

The Grand Chantrey Stakes, 1949
Pencil and watercolour, 26 cm x 35.5 cm

Under the will of the English sculptor Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey (1781–1841), in 1875 the Royal Academy received the then huge sum of £105,000 to be invested by five trustees, with the income each year being given to the RA to purchase 'works of Fine Art of the highest merit executed within the shores of Great Britain', with the idea of building up a national collection of British art. After the Tate Gallery was opened, in 1897, all the works purchased were housed there. There was soon criticism of the standard and representativeness of the works bought, and the Tate began a long campaign for at first some and then a greater say in the selection process. Roberts's picture, showing the president of the RA Sir Alfred Munnings – a celebrated painter of horses – riding away with the Chantrey will, seems to have arisen from the Tate's seeking greater control. As Roberts put it in a letter in the 13 Dec. 1957 Times Literary Supplement (reprinted in his Vorticism and the Politics of Belles-Lettres-ism, 1958), 'By 1949 the Tate and the Academy were in open conflict over the Chantrey Fund. In an article From the Tate Cellars to the Academy Walls in the Daily Telegraph of 7th January, 1949 under the signature Peterborough Sir John complains that the "Tate share in Chantrey decisions is largely illusory" . . . Again in the Daily Telegraph on 20th January, 1949 in his article "Why the Tate does not show the Chantrey pictures" Sir John complains that the Director and Trustees of Tate "Are able to exercise no effective control over the Chantrey Fund". Then on the 27th January, 1949, in the Daily Telegraph the R.A.'s open up their batteries with an article by the President Sir Alfred Munnings "Chantrey Pictures, Academy reply to a challenge" in it he writes "The exhibition of the Chantrey pictures at the Academy is the result of a challenge thrown down by the Tate Board and accepted by the Academy Council'; he further states that "In 1947 there was deadlock at the Tate, Chairman and his Board on one side of the table, myself and Academy Council on the other." Eventually from this struggle around the conference table the Tate secure equal representation with the Academy on both committees of the Chantrey Fund [later in 1949], thereby obtaining power in addition to responsibility.'
PROVENANCE: Wilfrid Evill (Sept. 1949, £15) > Miss Honor Frost (1963) > private collection, London (2011)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: Leicester Galleries (3) 1952, Brighton 1965, Tate Gallery 1965

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