Lucian Freud Landscape Discovered Under Suffolk Sign Painter’s Canvas




A landscape painting depicting trees and a bridge over a stream attributed to the British artist Lucian Freud has been uncovered after conservators painstakingly stripped off layers on a picture by a Suffolk artist acknowledged as a friend of Freud.

The work of art is thought to have been painted over after World War II.

The oil on canvas was discovered in the cellar of artist Elizabeth Bodman, who died in 2015, and was assumed to be painted by her husband and fellow artist Tom Wright, a wartime acquaintance of Freud. But the back of the canvas was signed “Lucian”.

On closer inspection, there were clear signs of a second image below Wright’s. Conservator Gillian Musset painstakingly removed the top layer of paint chip by chip with a scalpel, to reveal the work now attributed to Freud.

Lucian Freud Landscape

Tom Wright is thought to have recycled Freud’s canvas for his painting, above, as they were in short supply

Attributed to Lucian Freud (1922 Berlin – 2011 London) – A Suffolk Spring Landscape with Welsh Mountains Beyond 1939/40 is expected to fetch £20,000-30,000 at auction on Wednesday 11 July.

Just before World War II Tom Wright, an apprentice plasterer and sign painter in Hadleigh, Suffolk, was hanging a pub sign at The Shoulder of Mutton, in which the young Lucian Freud was drinking.

Freud befriended him and persuaded him to join him at The East Anglian School of Painting & Drawing. Sir Cedric Morris waived Tom’s fees in lieu of his handyman skills.

Tom Wright attended the school until he was called up, only returning to his art studies at the end of the war. Canvas was rationed and hard to come by, so it is suggested that Wright took an old canvas from the school to paint on, and the picture was the result.

On his death the picture passed to his wife, the artist Elizabeth Bodman, and it was re-discovered when her probate valuation was done in 2015. Among the collection in the estate, were a number of comparable paintings by Tom Wright and many other works by artists who attended the East Anglian School, including a spectacular work by Cedric Morris.

Experts agree that the signature is clearly Freud’s and the newly exposed work is likely to be by him. On a painting trip to Wales in autumn 1939, after the school had burned down, probably because of Freud’s discarded cigarette, he created his first significant body of work, peopling the Welsh landscape with whatever popped into his mind.

The work is to be offered at auction on 11th July by Sworders auctioneers in their Modern British Art sale

Signature Lucian Freud Landscape

Signature Lucian Freud Landscape

Tom Wright attended the school until he was called up, only returning to his art studies at the end of the war. Canvas was rationed and hard to come by, so it is suggested that Wright took an old canvas from the school to paint on, and the picture was the result.

On his death the picture passed to his wife, the artist Elizabeth Bodman, and it was re-discovered when her probate valuation was done in 2015. Among the collection in the estate, were a number of comparable paintings by Tom Wright and many other works by artists who attended the East Anglian School, including a spectacular work by Cedric Morris.

During the lengthy conservation process, first removing Tom Wright’s landscape, then the layers of pink and white ground he had painted over Suffolk Landscape with Welsh Mountains Beyond, a couple of small areas of the present landscape inevitably came away too. These areas which have been in-painted in a reversible way, which is the ethically correct method to conserve such minor complications, revealed that there is a further layer of paint below this one (fig 5.), which not only is in a palette more associated with Freud’s early portraits, but were it to be a portrait would bring understanding to the orientation of the inscription/signature verso. Because it is very likely that Freud painted Suffolk Landscape with Welsh Mountains Beyond, thus himself choosing to paint over whatever lies beneath, clearly the decision to leave the painting as it currently is was inevitable.

Experts agree that the signature is clearly Freud’s and the newly exposed work is likely to be by him. On a painting trip to Wales in autumn 1939, after the school had burned down, probably because of Freud’s discarded cigarette, he created his first significant body of work, peopling the Welsh landscape with whatever popped into his mind.

The work is to be offered at auction on Wednesday 11th July by Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers in the Modern British Art sale.

Read More About Lucian Freud


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