Arts minister John Glen placed the temporary export bar on the preparatory study as only seven of Koch’s drawings remain in UK public collections.
The drawing had previously been owned by art critic Brian Sewell (1931-2015). It was sold during the auction of his estate at Christie’s in September 2016. The new owner then applied for an export licence to take it overseas.
A search for a buyer based in the UK is now under way and the decision on the export licence application has been deferred until September 27 and could be extended until December 27.
Glen said: “I hope that a buyer comes forward to help keep it in the UK so that more people can learn about this artist’s creative process and the development of his art.”
The rise of alpine scenery
Dating from around 1793, the work is typical of the highly precise studies Koch made for compositions, using black chalk and heightening the contours in black ink. His depictions of Switzerland were extremely influential and helped to popularise Alpine scenery among European artists. This is a preparatory study of his famous landscape painting of Schmadribach Waterfall in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.
RCEWA member Lowell Libson said: “Joseph Anton Koch is a pivotal figure in the European Romantic movement at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries and enjoyed a significant relationship with British patrons and collectors.
“Very few of Koch’s many important works originally in British collections now remain in the UK. This unusually highly elaborate drawing was made in preparation for the painting that is considered to be his masterpiece.”