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  • Chelsea, London
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London

Earliest known Niagara Falls painting saved from export

'An East View of the Great Cataract of Niagara', 1762
'An East View of the Great Cataract of Niagara', 1762

The National Army Museum has raised £100,000 to save a rare work of art for the nation. The watercolour, entitled 'An East View of the Cataract of Niagara', originally sold to an overseas buyer at Christies in 2015.

However the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by Arts Council England, placed a temporary export bar to prevent the watercolour leaving the country. It will now go on display when the museum re-launches later this year.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

'I am delighted that the National Army Museum has purchased this important watercolour - the first of its kind of Niagara Falls. The painting sheds light on Britain's great exploration achievements in the 18th century and now it has been saved for the nation and can be enjoyed for generations to come.'

Painted in 1762 by Thomas Grant Davies of the Royal Artillery, a highly regarded military artist and collector, the work is of outstanding historical importance for the study of military draughtsmanship. It shows both the direct observation of natural phenomenon, as well as representation of indigenous figures, who were critical to Britain’s successful exploration of North America.

Commenting on the award Ian Maine, Assistant Director (Collections) said:

'We are thrilled to have received the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund. The museum will use the watercolour to illuminate the British Army’s early relationship with North America. This is a fantastically, important piece of military, being the earliest eyewitness representation of the iconic landscape of Niagara Falls.'

The work is able to tell part of the story of British discovery and exploration in North America. This includes relations with American First Nations, some of whom sided with Britain and others who sided with French colonists during the French and Indian Wars (1754-63). A programme of activity will also form part of the Museum's dialogue around Britain's relationship with North America.

The museum received an award of £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and a £50,000 grant from the Art Fund.

Explaining the importance of the HLF support, the Head of HLF London, Stuart Hobley, said:

'We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, this rare work has been saved for the nation. This is a great opportunity for people to explore the history of military draughtsmanship, as well as providing a fascinating insight into the historical British military presence in North America.'

Notes for editors

For more information, please contact the National Army Museum press office at pr@nam.ac.uk or 020 7881 2433.

Art Fund

The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone the Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, including ARTIST ROOMS and the 2013-18 Aspire tour of Tate’s 'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows' by John Constable, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators.

The Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 122,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 230 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions. In addition to grant-giving, the Art Fund’s support for museums includes the annual Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year (won by The Whitworth, Manchester, in 2015), a publications programme and a range of digital platforms.

National Army Museum

The National Army Museum is the leading authority on the history of the British Army. Founded in 1960 by Royal Charter and established for the purpose of collecting, preserving and exhibiting objects and records relating to the Land Forces of the British Crown it is a museum that moves, inspires, challenges, educates and entertains. The Museum tells the story of the British Army, the personal experiences of the soldiers who have served and connects the British public and its Army demonstrating how the role of the Army and its actions are still relevant today.

Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. HLF has supported 36,000 projects with £6bn across the UK.

For more information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF press office, on tel: (020) 7591 6036 out of hours mobile: 07973 613820.

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