The iconic Monarch of the Glen painting is set to go on tour around the country after the Scottish Government stepped in to help secure its future.
The National Galleries of Scotland has used a ring-fenced government fund for acquisitions to help secure the 19th century masterpiece following a four-month fundraising campaign.
Ministers have also agreed to provide extra funding to help meet the costs of a nationwide tour of Sir Edwin Landseer’s painting, which is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s most iconic paintings.
It is expected to be a star attraction at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, where it has gone on display ahead of a tour later this year, which is expected to take in at least three locations, including the Highlands.
A £750,000 drive was launched in mid-February to raise the final amount to buy the painting from whisky giants Diageo for £4 million.
The National Galleries faced a race against time to find the money after striking a “part-purchase, part-gift” deal in November, weeks after it emerged the firm was planning to put it up for auction with a £10 million price tag.
Donations from around the world, including Queensland, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, helped ensure that the painting has entered public ownership for the first time.
The 1851 painting of a stag set against a remote Highland backdrop, which had been on long-term loan to the National Museum of Scotland for the previous 17 years, was expected to attract global interest when it came under the hammer in London.
The £100,000 used from the National Galleries’s own resources represents 50 per cent of its annual ringfenced budget from the government for acquisitions.
A public campaign generated £266,000, with a further £634,000 from private trusts and donations. The Heritage Lottery Fund contributed £2.65 million towards the purchase and the Art Fund £350,000, with a further £100,000 from the HLF and £75,0000 from the government for the tour.
Sir John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries, said: “I think it is perfectly reasonable for us to use a relatively modest chunk of our own funds. We would normally expect to use some of our own funds for an acquisition like this. When you are applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund they expect to see you putting a bit of your own money into it. We were very keen to avoid having to mortgage the painting for years to come.
“Without the HLF’s support it would have been very difficult to make it fly. That came very early and was very quickly followed by the Art Fund. That gave a pretty credible base to go out to trusts and foundations.
“We reached the point where we were confident enough to launch a public campaign. You don’t do that if you’re going to fail.
“It’s been really interesting monitoring the reactions to the campaign. A lot of people have said they feel it is an important picture and very much like the image. Others have said it is not their thing or they don’t like it, but they think it is important it should be kept here.
“Even the most cynical observers have said it is a fantastic picture, it is part of our history and should be part of the national collection.”
The Monarch of the Glen was originally commissioned for the House of Lords, but never went on display and was bought from the artist by the sportsman Lord Londesborough for 350 guineas.
It changed hands several times before being snapped up by whisky firm John Dewar and Sons in 1916 and has been in the hands of the industry from then until now.
Although born in London, the artist - who created work for Sir Walter Scott and Queen Victoria - had been visiting the Highlands regularly for more than 25 years when he created the Monarch of the Glen.
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The overwhelmingly positive response to the public fundraising campaign underlines the importance of the painting to people in Scotland and around the world.
“I am pleased the Scottish Government was able to provide £100,000 towards its acquisition and a further £75,000 for a tour that will enable communities across Scotland to see it. I look forward to seeing the Monarch of the Glen continue to attract visitors from far and wide in the years to come.”
David Cutter, Diageo’s senior director in Scotland, said: “We’re very happy to have partnered with the National Galleries of Scotland and to see the positive outcome of that with the Monarch of the Glen passing into permanent public ownership in Scotland for the first time in its history.”