Rediscoveries at the Atkinson Gallery: Big reveals

Polly Checkland Harding

Well-loved classics and two, newly uncovered paintings with an intriguing story behind them show at The Atkinson.

What a way to ace a job interview: while being evaluated for the role of museum and gallery manager at The Atkinson, Stephen Whittle uncovered the artist behind a previously unattributed painting that had been in storage there since the 1920s*. When researching the post, Whittle had spotted an artwork on the BBC’s Your Paintings website that seemed very similar to work by WW1 artist C.R.W. Nevinson; conservation work has since revealed the artist’s signature, as well as a number of prior compositions beneath the top layers of paint.

The artist behind a previously unattributed painting was uncovered in a job interview

Now, newly restored and reframed, this piece is being exhibited as part of Rediscoveries at The Atkinson. It’s joined by more instantly recognisable works, such as sculptures by Elisabeth Frink and Henry Moore, alongside other, lesser-known pieces. Paintings by Philip Connard, for example, the Southport-born artist who once created murals for Windsor Castle. Connard’s work makes up part of the Musée d’Orsay and the Art Institute of Chicago’s collections – and yet few know who he is. More fascinating still is another painting that, until recently, was listed simply as “unknown artist, Florence”.

Listed simply – and incorrectly. If you look closely at the canvas, you’ll spot a jolly red London bus. Not Florence, then: the work turned out to be by French artist and friend to Marcel Proust, Jacques Emile Blanche. Based on his time in London, the work has been retitled “London Bridge” and given an estimated date of 1905-1014.

Rediscoveries is showing alongside LS Lowry and Theodore Major: Two Lancashire Painters, an exhibition that looks at the divergent careers of two 20th-century painters. Both shows think about fame and obscurity, about the art and artists who survive over time. It’s a complimentary pairing – well worth, we think, a day trip out in Southport.

* Oh, and – Stephen Whittle got the job, obviously.

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