Living room find of lost painting is lucky stroke

A LOST masterpiece by one of the Scottish Colourists is expected to sell for up to £200,000 at auction after being found hanging in a Lothian living room.

The seller, who wishes to remain anonymous, had not realised the value of the painting by artist George Leslie Hunter, which had been in their family since the 1920s.

It was only when they read an Evening News story about the upcoming auction of another work by Hunter for 70,000 that the seller contacted Bonhams auctioneers in the Capital.

Dr Chris Brickley, head of pictures for Bonhams in Edinburgh, said: "This is an example of how the worlds of art and media can produce a very happy result.

"I certainly think it will cause quite a stir as it's quite rare to see a new Leslie Hunter of this quality."

The oil painting, purchased by the seller's family directly from Hunter around 80 years ago, is described as being a classic example depicting pink roses, fruit, glass and bright fabrics on a tabletop.

The forebear was one of Hunter's few customers as the painter refused to actively promote his work, making new finds ever rarer.

The seller saw the Evening News story from July 10 about the planned auction of Hunter's still life of a silver coffee pot and salver, wine glass and mixed fruit at the Made in Scotland sale.

Hunter was a visionary Scottish painter who was partly responsible for reintroducing still life into British painting in the 20th century.

Dr Brickley said: "The picture was hanging in the corner of a room full of bright, bold modern pictures but it immediately caught my eye.

"It has a freshness and exuberance which is all too rare, and is one of the finest Colourist still life pictures I have seen in a private home."

Hunter died in Glasgow in 1931 and was best known for his scenes of Fife.

A Bonhams spokesman said: "Hunter's best work has a spontaneity and panache that eluded most painters, even Peploe, and although he often over-worked pictures to their detriment this example features a rare balance between highly-worked passages of fluid brushwork and areas of unprimed, bare board.

"Hunter had several loyal patrons, on whom he relied, but otherwise found it difficult to sell pictures during his lifetime.

This may in part be due to his refusal to court buyers, on one occasion famously deserting a dinner held in his honour with the centrepiece from the table display just so that he could start work on painting it without delay."

The work of the Scottish Colourists was not very highly regarded when it was first exhibited in the 1920s and 1930s, but their paintings later came to have a formative influence on contemporary Scottish art.

Alongside Hunter, Francis Cadell, Samuel Peploe and John Duncan Fergusson are traditionally grouped under this name.

Their work is featured in several galleries across the UK, including the Aberdeen Art Gallery, the J. D. Fergusson Gallery in Perth and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

Hunter and Peploe were largely responsible for pioneering the still life tradition in British painting in the last century, and their works are now much sought-after by collectors worldwide.

The rediscovered Hunter painting will be offered as an extra lot at the sale on August 24 and is expected to make 150,000 to 200,000.

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