“The lack of a suitable depiction of the Duke of Wellington has long been identified as the biggest gap in our collection,” said NPG director Dr Nicholas Cullinan.
An initial donation of £350,000 from Art Fund kicked off the campaign today, bringing the total raised so far to £1m. The initial £650,000 of funding is comprised of internal funding: £200,000 from the Gallery Acquisitions’ Grant, £400,000 from the Portrait Fund and £50,000 from Gift Aid.
“If we can raise the funds, this remarkable painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence will be on permanent display and free for over two million visitors to enjoy each year,” Cullinan added.
The gallery has until March 2017 to raise the remaining £300,000.
The portrait was loaned to the London gallery in 2014 from the Timothy Clode Collection. At that point, it was the first time the unfinished painting had been publically exhibited.
The portrait was started in 1829 when Wellington was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports – and fought a duel with Lord Winchilsea over the issue of Catholic emancipation. It is one of eight portraits that Lawrence made of the Duke.
It was commissioned by Sarah, Countess of Jersey, who prevented one of Lawrence’s studio assistants from completing the portrait after the artist’s death.
“The ‘Iron Duke’ is one of the towering figures in British history,” said historian and broadcaster Dan Snow. “Now more than 200 years after his most famous victory at the Battle of Waterloo it’s time we helped the National Portrait Gallery win the day.”