Painting hidden beneath another art work fetches thousands at sale

PUBLISHED: 07:53 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 07:53 19 July 2018

Attributed to Lucian Freud, A Suffolk Spring Landscape with Welsh Mountains

Attributed to Lucian Freud, A Suffolk Spring Landscape with Welsh Mountains

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A painting by the artist Lucian Freud which had been painted over by another artist when the canvas was re-used, has been sold for £30,000 at auction.

The second painting was painstakingly scraped off with a scalpel to find the Freud underneath and has been sold at Sworders Auctioneers, in Stansted.

Initially, a landscape painting found in the cellar of artist Elizabeth Bodman, who died in 2015, was assumed to be painted by her husband and fellow artist Tom Wright. But, curiously, the back of the canvas was signed “Lucian”.

The story emerged that just before the Second World War, Tom Wright, an apprentice plasterer and pub sign painter in Suffolk, was hanging a pub sign at The Shoulder of Mutton public house, where the young Lucian Freud was drinking.

Freud befriended Tom and persuaded him to join him at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Suffolk.

The school’s founder, the artist Sir Cedric Morris, waived Tom’s fees in lieu of his handyman skills.

Tom is thought to have recycled Freud’s canvas for his painting, as materials were in short supply.

Painstaking conservation work, in which the top layers of paint were removed chip by chip with a scalpel, revealed the work below now attributed to Freud.

The work, called A Suffolk Spring Landscape with Welsh Mountains Beyond, dated 1939-1940 and oil on a canvas, measuring 20 inches by 24, went to a private collector in the UK who bid by telephone.

A spokesman for Sworders said: “Experts validated the signature on the back of the canvas as Freud’s.

“The family of Elizabeth Bodman followed the sale closely and were especially pleased that the painting is to remain in the UK.”

Freud, born in Berlin and the grandson of Sigmund Freud, moved with his family to Britain in 1933 to escape the Nazis. He attended Goldsmiths College, London, and joined the Merchant Navy during the Second World War. His paintings, completed over a 60-year career, are mostly of friends and family.

Also in the sale was a Sir Cedric Morris (1889-1982) landscape, also found in Elizabeth Bodman’s cellar. This work called A Suffolk Landscape, Autumn, dated from 1929, sold for £24,000.

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