Following his death in 1989, museum staff were allowed to choose items from his collection and these were donated to the Art Gallery & Museum through the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museums, a registered charity. The remainder of his collection was sold at auction, the sales taking 25 days and comprising over 14,000 lots. It was the longest auction sale of a single collection held in Britain in the 20th century and attracted considerable media attention. The sale realised almost £7,000,000.
A highlight of his collection and one which had great meaning for Ron Summerfield personally is the portrait by Frank Cadogan Cowper (1877-1958), the Ugly Duckling.
He particularly wanted to give this painting to the town as it reminded him of his mother.
It was painted in 1950 of Valerie Tarantolo (then Valerie Anderson) aged 16. The artist, who lived in Cirencester, spotted Valerie working in Boots and asked her to sit for him. Now living in America Valerie had been searching for her portrait for many years and eventually found it via the internet. Her return to see it after nearly 60 years in April 2008 made national news in the UK, and can be seen by clicking on the link below to view the short film by David Grange.
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American beauty finds lost picture after 50 years
This video by David Grange records Mrs Valerie Tarantolo, the sitter in one of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum's favourite paintings, returning to see her portrait after more than 50 years. She is the sitter for the Ugly Ducking by Frank Cadogan Cowper which hangs in Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. The painting was bequeathed by Ronald Summerfield through the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum in 1989. Ron Summerfield wanted the painting to be hung in the Art Gallery & Museum in memory of his mother.