The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, has helped to kick start an appeal to save the only known portrait from life of John Fletcher for the National Portrait Gallery with a grant of £50,000.
The portrait of Fletcher, one of the most successful and prolific playwrights of the Jacobean period, is on offer for £218,000, a substantially reduced price following tax remission. Thanks to the significant contribution by The Art Fund, the gallery must now raise the final £168,000 through appeal by the deadline of January 20 2008.
John Fletcher (1579-1625) wrote three plays jointly with Shakespeare: Cardenio (now lost), The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen. He is also well known for his collaboration with Francis Beaumont. The painting, by an unidentified artist, shows Fletcher as a prosperous and well-dressed man with paper and pens, the tools of his trade.
“We’re delighted that our grant will help kickstart the National Portrait Gallery’s appeal to save this painting,' said David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund. 'Fletcher was among the stars of Jacobean theatre; most famous for his collaborations with Beaumont and Shakespeare.'
'Though his plays are seldom performed today, he richly deserves his place in the English literary pantheon - and this sensitive portrait therefore belongs in the National Portrait Gallery, alongside those of his contemporaries, Shakespeare, Jonson and Donne.”
If acquired, the portrait would be an important addition to the Gallery’s collection of 16th and 17th century poets, which includes paintings of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Donne. The Art Fund was instrumental in saving the portrait of John Donne for this collection in 2006.
Text and image by 24 Hour Museum, UK