By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
The last known portrait painting of famous Nottinghamshire writer D.H. Lawrence is to be brought permanently to Nottingham and put on public display for the first time.
Nottingham City Council has accepted funding, including grant aid and public donations, to buy the work by a Dutch artist.
The purchase from a private owner means it will be put on public display in the city, having previously only been on display privately.
D.H. Lawrence, who was from Eastwood, was best known for his novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, among other works. The book was famously unpublished in the UK until 1960 for fear of prosecution over its explicit content.
Under a delegated decision on May 18 – made outside of a council meeting – the council has decided to accept funding to purchase the painting of Lawrence, created shortly before his untimely death in March 1930.
A council report on the purchase states: “It was painted by Dutch artist, Joep Nicolas (1897-1972), better known as a stained glass painter of some repute.
“Nicolas was the brother-in-law to the novelist Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963), the iconic author of Brave New World (1932), who was a close friend of Lawrence.
“Late in 1929, while travelling from Spain to Germany, the Lawrences’ called on the Huxleys in Suresnes, France, where Nicolas also happened to be staying, and so the chance arose for Nicolas to paint Lawrence’s portrait.
“This resulted in one of the few portraits of Lawrence painted during the writer’s lifetime and – almost certainly – the final one.”
“In March 1925, Lawrence had been diagnosed with the double infirmity of tuberculosis and malaria.
“He died at Villa Robermond, Vence, on March 2 1930, shortly after the visit where he sat for this portrait.
“The portrait has been offered for sale to Nottingham by a private collector in the USA.”
The report adds: “Appropriate due diligence checks have confirmed that the provenance for the work is secure.”
Aside from Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lawrence was a prolific author of novels, short stories, poems and essays.
Although he enjoyed some success and recognition during his lifetime, he also faced controversy and censorship because of the way his work portrayed sexuality and relationships.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was not published in the UK in an uncensored form until thirty years after Lawrence’s death.
It led to an obscenity trial for publisher Penguin Books, but the company was cleared in what was seen as a watershed moment for British attitudes to language and sex.
Over time public and critical understanding of Lawrence’s work changed.
He is now one of the most significant authors of 20th century literature and his works are celebrated worldwide.
The cost of the painting has not been revealed, but will not affect the council’s budget.
The council added: “The acquisition relates strongly to a number of themes in the collections and to Nottingham’s status as an UNESCO City of Literature.
“It has already begun to open up new possibilities for work between the Museums Service and Library Service and adds rich potential to literacy and creative writing programmes at Newstead Abbey.
“The cost of purchasing the portrait is fully met by a combination of external funding and support from partners and public donations.
“The portrait has been transported to Nottingham at the expense of the current owner, to help with fundraising efforts.
“Should the painting not be acquired, then it would return immediately to the USA and the supporting programme of learning and engagement would not take place.
“The portrait has not yet been exhibited in the UK, having spent its life between mainland Europe and the USA.
“In celebration of its arrival in Nottingham, its new home, a five month programme of events and activities at Newstead Abbey and in Nottingham City Libraries will be organised, to support and promote the acquisition and to reach out to audiences unfamiliar with Newstead Abbey or with Lawrence.”