Walker Art Gallery acquires two masterpieces

Two Impressionist masterpieces by Degas and Monet are gifted to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool thanks to an inheritance tax transfer scheme. Tony McDonough reports

Modiste Decorating a Hat
Modiste Decorating a Hat (1891-1895), a pastel by Edgar Degas


Two Impressionist masterpieces have been gifted to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and will be on display from next weekend.

Modiste Decorating a Hat (1891-1895), a pastel by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), and The Epte in Giverny (1884), a painting by Claude Monet (1840-1926), will appear in room 10 of the Walker in William Brown Street on Saturday, April 27.

National Museums Liverpool (NML) has acquired the artworks via the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. This allows people who have an inheritance tax bill to pay by transferring important cultural, scientific or historic objects and archives to the nation.

These latest acquisitions come from the collection of Mary Elliot-Blake (1904-1996) and have been owned by the Montagu family by descent. Due to the family’s connection to the city of Liverpool, the paintings were allocated to the Walker.

Degas’ Modiste Decorating a Hat depicts a milliner adjusting a hat in a shop window. It joins another work by Degas in the Walker’s collection, Woman Ironing (1892-1895) (currently on loan).

Together, they reflect the artist’s interest in showing women at work. The new Degas presents a professional working woman, while Woman Ironing focuses on domestic work. Born in Paris, France, Degas is renowned for his depictions of dancers.

Monet’s The Epte in Giverny adds to the Walker’s already impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Monet’s Break-up of the ice on the Seine, near Bennecourt (1893) is one of the most recognisable.

The Epte in Giverny will provide a fascinating contrast to this, presenting a vibrant, leafy scene in the village of Giverny in Normandy, France, where the artist painted his famous water lily series.


The Epte in Giverny (1884)
The Epte in Giverny (1884), a painting by Claude Monet


Kate O’Donoghue, curator of international fine art at NML, said: “Claude Monet’s landscapes and Edgar Degas’ scenes of everyday life epitomise the Impressionist movement.

“It’s difficult to overstate quite how special it is to obtain these new works by two of Europe’s most famous artists.

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“The artworks will sit alongside works by artists such as Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse, helping us to tell the story of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in a way that will no doubt inspire visitors for many years to come.”

NML says it is “extremely grateful” to the Montagu family for supporting the acquisition. It also thanked the Rick Mather David Scrase Foundation for funding the conservation of the works and Christie’s for its assistance with negotiations.

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