Export ban stops Capt Cook's kangaroo skipping the UK

Feb 6, 2013

Australians hopping mad after UK govt delays foreign sale of George Stubbs' kangaroo painting

A PAINTING of a kangaroo that gave the British public their first glimpse of the strange marsupial encountered by Captain James Cook in the New World, is the subject of an export bar designed to stop it hopping out of the country.

The Guardian reports George Stubbs' painting of the kangaroo and another picture by the celebrated naturalist artist of a dingo, are both subjects of temporary export bars announced by arts minister Ed Vaizey yesterday. The oil paintings, entitled The Kongouro from New Holland and Portrait of a Large Dog, first went on display in London in 1773.

The export bars give British buyers until 5 August to come up with the £5.5m the two paintings are expected to fetch at auction. The bars can be extended to 5 November if a serious UK bid to raise the funds is lodged.

The minister's decision has upset sections of the Australian media which reported an unnamed local buyer was keen to bring the paintings to Australia. In a story headlined "Kangaroo art denied return home", The Australian says "British authorities have staked a claim over the native Australians".

But many Australians might struggle to recognise Stubbs' kangaroo because it is far from life-like. The head is too small and the paws "are a bit weird", The Guardian says. Then again, the Liverpool-born painter, who is better known for his pictures of horses, never actually saw a live kangaroo. All he had to work with was a dried kangaroo skin and the "verbal accounts" of explorers who had visited Australia. Under the circumstances, the "resulting painting is arguably not too bad at all," The Guardian says.

The BBC says the two works were probably commissioned by the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks after he took part in Cook's first voyage of discovery to the Pacific.

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