Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 13:30 UK

Historic landscape goes to museum

Gainsborough picture
The picture is going to Norwich Castle Museum's collection

A landscape painting by the 18th Century Suffolk artist Thomas Gainsborough is to become a permanent feature at Norwich Castle.

Barbara Follett, minister for culture, said the work had been accepted in lieu of a £700,000 inheritance tax bill.

It was given as part of a scheme run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council on behalf of the government.

The minister said: "I am very pleased to present this beautiful painting by Gainsborough to the Castle Museum."

The painting, called Open Landscape with Milkmaid and Cows, Donkeys, Plough Team and Church, Farmhouse and Barn among Trees, measures a total of 38in by 51in (92.8cm by 123cm).

'People of today'

It depicts elements of the East Anglian landscape in which Gainsborough grew up.

Ms Follett added: "I am glad that the people of today, and those of the future, will be able to enjoy it thanks to the government's innovative tax scheme.

"This is helping regional museums to grow their collections by rewarding philanthropy and, at the same time, enriching local heritage."

The scheme enables items deemed to be of historical or artistic importance to be given in place of inheritance tax, with items then given to museums and galleries throughout the UK.

The painting dates back to the late-1750s, at the end of the artist's time in Ipswich, Suffolk.

It was commissioned by an East Anglian patron and has passed down through the family over the generations.

Gainsborough, who was born in Sudbury in 1727, trained in London and later returned to Suffolk where he was able to win commissions from the local gentry.

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