YORK Art Gallery hopes to turn a dream into a reality by bringing home York artist Albert Moore's work A Revery.

Already, the work is on show in the Exhibition Square gallery until October 1 as part of Albert Moore: Of Beauty and Aesthetics, the first major exhibition of his work since the Memorial Exhibition at Grafton Gallery in London a few months after his death September 1893 For A Revery to take up permanent residence in York, York Art Gallery needs £3.6 million of funding, and, crucially, the gallery has been given first dibs by the present owners, Agnews Gallery in London, to secure "one of his most outstanding works".

“This is a rare opportunity for a public collection to acquire such a significant painting by Moore, and it would allow us to secure a significant part of York’s artistic heritage to be enjoyed by visitors for years to come, " says senior curator of art Laura Turner. "Our fundraising team hope to raise the majority of the funding by applying to funding bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund but public donations are welcome too."

York Press:

Midsummer, 1887, by Albert Moore

Should you be pondering why an 1892 work by an artist not given a solo show in more than 100 years can command a price tag of £3.6 million, let Laura be your guide. "Albert Moore was an incredible artist; A Revery sees him at the height of his powers and is considered to be Moore’s most significant work still in private hands.

"The subject is a young woman pictured alert, relaxed in pose, but lost in thought, her classical attire – draped in apricot and fawn –typical of many of the artist’s restful and contemplative works, but the levels of complexity and the technical skill displayed show Moore at his most confident and at the peak of his ability."

Laura is candid in acknowledging that Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893) does not have the same status as William Etty (1787-1849) in his home city, pointing to several reasons: Etty lived and died in York; Moore left York for London in adolescence in 1855 with his mother after his father died; Etty was instrumental in campaigning for a school of art and design in the city – where Moore would later study – and has a statue in his honour in Exhibition Square; Moore has no statue; Etty has been the subject of a retrospective at York Art Gallery; Moore has not, until now.

York Press:

Portrait of William Connal, 1886, by Albert Moore

"I really hope this exhibition will do the same for Moore as that show did for Etty," says Laura. Hopefully, yes, but has York been neglectful of one of its most talented artistic sons? "I think we have been, but also there's been a misunderstanding of his work, as he was doing something so new, something so radical.

"In his work, he stripped out the story, he stripped out the subject; what mattered to him was the arrangement of the figures, so contemporary critics either didn't like it or struggled with it.

"It didn't help that Moore was reclusive and didn't talk about his work: Rossetti [the English poet, illustrator, Pre-Raphaelite painter and translator] called him a dull dog, though James McNeil Whistler stood by him. You had to be a showman, but Moore wasn't, and he didn't think about his legacy, so he didn't leave a large one.

York Press:

Loves Of The Wind And The Seasons, Albert Moore's last completed work

"He never kept huge amounts of correspondence or a detailed inventory at his studio in Holland Park, and he didn't explain his works because he wanted them to talk for themselves, though in his later years he did write poems to accompany his works as a way in to understanding them."

Moore did not play by the rules. "He never believed in marriage; he never became a Royal Academician, because his style was so original, too progressive for some, and as he led an unconventional life, maybe the Academy didn't want their standing to be tarnished by him."

Moore's artistic trademark was the languorous female figure set against the luxury and decadence of the classical world, a signature style influenced in his youthful work by the Pre-Raphaelites, before he became a prominent artist of the Aesthetic movement, noted for prioritising mood, colour harmony and beauty of form over subject matter to create "art for art’s sake".

York Press:

A Venus, 1869, by Albert Moore

Belatedly, he is acquiring recognition as an important figure in the transition from representation to abstraction, a status reflected in such a price as £3.6 million for A Revery. "Moore's work was always highly desired by certain big patrons, such as wealthy industrialists, who supported his practice, and there are industrialists, galleries and collectors, who still champion his work, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, who bought Red Berries at a time when we were unable to raise the money," says Laura.

On show in Of Beauty and Aesthetics are 27 Moore works, 13 from the York Art Gallery collection, acquired through bequests, gifts and strategic purchases, complemented by works from private collections and galleries in Birkenhead, Bury, Manchester and Liverpool. Beyond A Revery, look out, in particular, for Midsummer, 1887, from the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery in Bournemouth, and The Loves Of The Winds And Seasons, from Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, the last painting Moore completed shortly before his death.

York Press:

York Museums Trust marketing and communications coordinator Lauren Masterman stands by Albert Moore's 1897 work Midsummer at York Art Gallery. Picture: Nigel Holland

York Art Gallery is also giving context to the exhibition by showing works by Moore’s brothers, Henry Moore and John Collingham, and his father, William Moore, all professional artists, as well as paintings by Victorian and Aesthetic contemporaries, in one adjoining gallery.

In another, the history of York School of Art is explored, including its forerunner, the York School of Design, where a young Albert Moore enrolled. He was only ten: a sign of a talent that is now receiving its fullest recognition.

Albert Moore: Of Beauty and Aesthetics, a collaboration between York Art Gallery and the Museum De Buitenplaats, in the Netherlands, runs in York until October 1.