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Constable canvas bought by Suffolk trust

PUBLISHED: 13:00 22 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:58 03 March 2010

AFTER three years of fundraising, The Constable Trust has achieved its goal and bought the most important religious canvas ever painted by the Suffolk-born artist John Constable.

AFTER three years of fundraising, The Constable Trust has achieved its goal and bought the most important religious canvas ever painted by the Suffolk-born artist John Constable. The Ascension, which measures 160 by 127cm was bought from Feering Church for £60,000 and there have been additional costs of £15,000 to over conservation, installation and security.

The majority of the money has been raised from local trust funds and generous individuals. The painting presently hangs in St Mary's Parish Church, Dedham in the heart of Constable Country.

The chairman of the Trust, Hugh Belsey, said: "My fellow trustees and I are moved by the generosity and kindness of the many individuals who have helped with our appeal. Local individuals and trusts have realised the significance of this painting for the Stour Valley and made a magnificent response to our calls for help. Nationwide trusts, such as the Pilgrim Trust and the Cottam Will Trust, have also provided much needed help. I am most grateful to them all."

The Trust has found it difficult to raise funds from the usual sources of grant-aid which help purchase paintings and other works of art for public enjoyment. Their criteria are directed to helping museums rather displaying works of art in other public buildings.

The life-size canvas of Christ was painted by John Constable in 1822 for St Michael's church in Manningtree. It was commissioned by a brewer, Edward Daniel Alston, who appears to have lost interest halfway through and probably never paid for the painting. When Manningtree church was demolished the painting was purchased for All Saints' in Feering near Colchester. Three years ago the Parochial Church Council attempted to sell the painting at auction and it was bought after the sale by two local businessmen to buy time for the Constable Trust to be created and to raise the £70,000 required to purchase the painting, restore it and install it in St Mary's Parish Church in Dedham. The businessmen have been paid back and the painting is now the property of The Constable Trust.

Penelope Hughes-Stanton, the Hon Secretary of the Trust said: "Without the intervention and contributions of the two local businessmen we would never have been able to secure the painting. They provide the most significant element in our success and the Trustees would like to record their gratitude to them."

The Constable Trust now has the responsibility to show the painting to the public in a safe environment, so it continues to seek funds for running costs. For further information contact Penny Hughes-Stanton, North House, The Walls Manningtree, Essex CO11 1AS. Telephone 01206 392717.


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