The Pallant House Gallery in Chichester has just received a never-before-exhibited drawing by Edgar Degas – but it won’t be there forever. The drawing (pictured), Femme se peignant (Woman combing her hair) (c.1887–1890), has been allocated to the gallery as part of the government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which is run by the Arts Council.

Previously the work had been owned by Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough, and will be on display at the gallery until August of this year. The gallery already has a substantial collection of Modern art, including works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne and Edouard Vuillard. Edward Harley, Chairman of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel said: “The Acceptance in Lieu scheme continues to enrich our public collections. I am delighted that this exceptional drawing has been allocated to Pallant House Gallery.”  The drawing was purchased directly from the artist in 1914 by French art dealer Ambrose Vollard, who published it with a number of other large charcoal drawings by the artist, in a celebratory volume of Degas’ work. The portrait was then purchased by Gladys Deacon, who at that point in time (between 1910s-20s) was a prolific collector and one who moved in the same circles as aristocrats, writers and artists. Her time in these circles included friendships with Auguste Rodin, and with her great beauty, she reportedly captivated Marcel Proust. Also in her collection were other works by Degas, works by Rodin and an oil painting by Henri-Toulouse Lautrec.

Simon Martin, Artistic Director of the gallery, said: ‘We are delighted by the acquisition of this remarkable Impressionist drawing, which is a very significant enhancement to Pallant House Gallery’s permanent collection. We are extremely grateful to the executor of Brod’s estate, the Arts Council and Acceptance in Lieu panel for choosing to allocate this to a regional gallery where it will be available to all, transforming our holdings of continental art. It will enable us to demonstrate the profound influence of Degas on British artists, in particular his friend Walter Sickert, but also to explore the story of Gladys Deacon, one of the most fascinating female collectors of the 20th century.’

Gladys married the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1921 and had a time at Blenheim Palace. She was however, later evicted, and died in a mental health institution in North Hampton in 1977. After her death, Femme se peignant, was bought at auction by its late owner Stephen Brod. After Brod’s death, the Pallant House Gallery was selected by the recipient of Brod’s estate to receive the work in lieu of Inheritance Tax through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.

Degas’ ‘Femme se peignant’ (c.1887–1890) is on display at Pallant House Gallery from 15 April until August 2016.

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