The Kimbell Art Museum has acquired a rare oil sketch by the English artist Richard Parkes Bonington, The Interior of San Ambrogio, Milan, 1826. It is on display with the museum’s permanent collection in the Kahn galleries, the museum said Friday.
The sketch was originally believed to be the work of Scottish painter David Roberts (1796-1864), as it contained his signature and the date 1841. (Bonington lived from 1802 to 1828.) Last summer, the painting’s most recent owner, Mac Shafer of Mineral Wells, showed the work to Kimbell officials. They consulted with a London-based Bonington expert, conducted extensive research and determined that it was the work of Bonington, not Roberts.
“The odds that this work would be rediscovered as one of the extremely rare paintings by Bonington are 1 in a million,” Kimbell director Eric M. Lee said in a news release.
The release goes on to explain: “Bonington did not sign his oil sketches, and it was determined that the signature and date had been added at a later time on top of the varnish, after the painting’s identification with Bonington had been lost, and possibly by a dealer who thought the picture might have been by Roberts, who painted similar church interiors.”
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The painting was cleaned and Roberts’ signature was removed. “The striking, on-site oil sketch was in fact an autographed painting by Bonington, which no doubt had been sold in the artist’s 1829 studio sale after his death,” the release says.
Bonington was a gifted landscape painter, comparable in artistic stature, Kimbell officials say, to J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. The Interior of San Ambrogio, Milan, joins his work The Grand Canal, Venice, Looking Toward the Rialto, which the Kimbell bought in 2009.
“Displayed together, the two Kimbell sketches offer complementary examples of Bonington’s deft touch: the penumbral shadows of the church interior and the atmospheric transparency of the Venetian view,” the release says