A rare early landscape attributed to a young Lucian Freud has been revealed after conservators stripped off a picture by a Suffolk artist and friend of Freud who painted over it after World War II.
The painting was found 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.
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 Toms 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 Freuds 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