Paul Getty, the billionaire bowled over by Britain, dies at 70

Ian Burrell,Media,Culture Correspondent
Thursday 12 December 2013 02:38

The billionaire philanthropist Sir Paul Getty, one of the greatest modern benefactors of British arts, died yesterday aged 70 from a recurrent chest infection.

Born into a very wealthy American oil family, Sir Paul fell in love with the British way of life and poured his wealth into its culture and cricket, his great passions.

His donations, which totalled £120m, helped the National Gallery to buy masterpieces by Caravaggio and Poussin. He also helped fund the building of the Mound stand at Lord's cricket ground in London.

Government ministers and some of Britain's best-known cricket fans were among those who paid tribute to the reclusive philanthropist yesterday.

John Major, the former prime minister and cricket aficionado, described Sir Paul as a "truly remarkable man whom I was privileged to know as a friend". Sir Mick Jagger described Sir Paul as "a quirky and very generous man".

Sir Paul was knighted in 1986 for services to charity but was only allowed to use the title "Sir" after he took British citizenship.

One of his best-known donations was a gift of £1m that allowed Canova's Three Graces to remain in Britain. He was also the British Film Institute's biggest financial supporter, giving between £40m and £50m over 20 years. The National Gallery received a further £50m.

Sir Paul once said: "As long as I have money, I will give it away."

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, paid tribute yesterday to Sir Paul's "stupendous" contribution to the arts. "Anyone who loves art and sport and believes that they should be enjoyed by everyone will be greatly saddened by Sir Paul's death," she said.

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