Arty contribution to the town

TO the untrained eye it may look like a picture of four women by a window, but to those in the know it is an important piece of our cultural heritage.The painting, entitled Ladies from the family of Mr William Mason of Colchester, is a rare work by John Constable and it has just been unveiled in Ipswich.

TO the untrained eye it may look like a picture of four women by a window, but to those in the know it is an important piece of our cultural heritage.

The painting, entitled Ladies from the family of Mr William Mason of Colchester, is a rare work by John Constable and it has just been unveiled in Ipswich.

On show at Christchurch Mansion, the painting is the ninth to be acquired by Ipswich Museum Service, making the Borough Council's collection the largest of his paintings held in any British public collection outside London.

This latest work was bought for the town thanks to a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and donations from the Friends of Ipswich Museums.

The picture, which cost £170,000, was unveiled by Mayor Richard Risebrow today

Councillor John Mowles, Ipswich Borough Council's Leisure and Arts Spokesman, said: "This is the ninth Constable oil painting we have, along with a greater number of drawings and mezzotints, and it shows our commitment to fine art in Ipswich.

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"We are very grateful to all those who helped us acquire the painting them and hope many, many residents and visitors will come along to view this fine work of art."

Amanda Arrowsmith, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund's East of England Committee, said: "The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to support Ipswich Museum and add this rare group portrait to its nationally renowned Constable collection.

"Visitors to Ipswich and local residents now have access to a wide range of Constable's early work, giving them a broader understanding of this great master as well as providing a wonderful insight into local history and landscapes."

Adrian Parry, Chairman of the Friends of Ipswich Museums said: "The acquisition of this rare conversation piece is an important addition to this significant collection of Constable paintings held at Christchurch Mansion. "Constable portraits in public collections are rare and this work will augment and develop the collection which is already acknowledge as a local and national centre for the study of Constable's early work," Mr Parry added.

After being outbid at auction in London last summer, the Council's indefatigable Registration and Collections Manager, Sally Dummer, approached the purchaser, a London gallery owner, who agreed to sell it to the Council which then re-applied for the Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Painted circa 1802-6, and still in its original frame, the painting depicts four ladies of the family of William Mason with their dog and, through a window, a view of Stratford St Mary church.

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