HC Deb 11 December 1967 vol 756 cc52-3W
Mr. Whitaker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in which galleries are all the pictures Turner bequeathed to the nation; whether he is satisfied with the present arrangements for the public to have access to them; how many of them are on permanent display; and what are his plans to improve their display.

Miss Jennie Lee

1. The Tate Gallery possesses 275 oil paintings from the Turner Bequest of which five are on long loan in the National Museum of Wales, two in the National Gallery of Scotland, one in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, two in the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and one in the Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, U.S.A. In addition, two are in the British Embassy, Washington, and one at No. 10 Downing Street. Two which have been at Messrs. Agnew's for the Turner Exhibition are about to be returned to the Gallery. One has just been removed from display in the Gallery for dispatch to America as part of an Exhibition of English Romantic Art in Detroit and Philadelphia, which will last for about three months. Of the remainder, 125 are on exhibition in Galleries 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. The rest are in store. The majority of the oil paintings are not in a condition for display, let alone for travelling, though 165 have been treated since 1953. The National Gallery also owns ten oil paintings from the Bequest, all of which are on display.

2. The collection of water colours, drawings and sketch books, which comprises 19,049 items, was moved from the Tate Gallery after the flooding in 1928 to the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, where they are on permanent loan. Fifty-seven of these, with two sketch books, are on loan to the Tate Gallery and are on display there. Thirty-seven are on semipermanent loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, of which 27 are on display in rotation in the Department of Prints and Drawings and a further 10 to the Circulation Department. Some of these are travelling with that Department's circulating loan collections.

3. None of the oil paintings, water colours or drawings, are necessarily on permanent display since the size and richness of the collections make it possible to meet the numerous requests for loans from reputable public collections for which, provided that they are in suitable condition, they are readily available. Further, water colours and drawings may suffer from excessive exposure to light and are not therefore always suitable for permanent exhibition.

4. All the oil paintings in store at the Tate Gallery can normally be made available to the public if two working days' notice is given. The recent remodelling of Gallery 6 has considerably improved the arrangements for display. The similar remodelling of Gallery 7 this winter should have the same result.

5. None of the water colours, drawings or sketch books in the British Museum are on display, but they are readily available in the Students' Room.

I am satisfied that the present arrangements for admittance to the collections give the public, not only in London, due access to this great Bequest.