August 17, 2007

A bright future for Lees's Grand Match painting which is to go on show in Edinburgh soon

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club owns a large oil painting by Charles Lees of the Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch. There was considerable controversy last year when it was revealed that the Club was looking to sell the painting at open auction. After consultation with the membership a compromise was adopted by the Board - that the painting might go to the National Galleries of Scotland, the national asset being retained within Scotland. With the auction house Sotheby's acting as agents for the Royal Club, negotiations were entered into with the National Galleries. The story was told in detail in June here.

The Minutes of the Royal Club Board from August 1, which will be found here, as well as a public statement here (and shown in full below), show that the parties are close to an agreement. Discussions are to be held on how the money raised from the sale might be used! Such funds will go into the Royal Club's Charitable Trust Fund, set up last season. Even better news is that the painting is to go on show soon at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, on Queen Street, Edinburgh. That will generate renewed interest in, and publicity for, the painting. It will also allow members an opportunity to see the 'damage' to the painting. Last year much was made of the costs that would have to be incurred by the Royal Club membership in restoring the painting if it was to be retained by the Club. Such restoration would be carried out by the National Galleries if, as is hoped, the sale goes though.

The carefully worded announcement is cause for optimism that the painting will be saved for the nation. It states:

'The Board of the RCCC and the RCCC Charitable Trust are pleased to announce that they have agreed to loan the Charles Lees Painting of 'The Grand Match at Linlithgow' to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

RCCC Board Chairman Mike Ferguson said, "We have entered discussions over a possible sale of the painting to the Portrait Gallery. We will continue to work to ensuring that the wishes of the vast majority of curlers, ie that the painting remains in Scotland and open to public view, will be met. We are fully considering our options with regard to the use of the funds generated by any sale. At this stage it would be fair to say the abiding principles that will be passed on to the Directors of the RCCC Charitable Trust will be protection of the capital for curling's future and best use of the income to support curling's heritage and development."

James Holloway, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery said, "Charles Lees' painting of the Grand Match at Linlithgow is one of Scotland's greatest sporting paintings. I am delighted that we have been allowed by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club to borrow it and display it in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery."'

Detail from Lees's painting is from the Scottish Curler archive.

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