Artistic mystery as hidden painting is found the collections at The Higgins Bedford

A mysterious hidden painting has been discovered during preparations for the Higgins Bedford’s upcoming exhibition, Going to Town – 200 Years of Bedford’s Art.

For every art exhibition at The Higgins Bedford, staff check on the condition of the paintings to identify which will need conservation before going on public display.

Many works haven’t been on public display for several decades and seven artworks were selected and taken to the conservator to be removed from their damaged frames, mounted in museum board and have any foxing – or browing – that had caused any discolouring corrected.

Whilst working on a watercolour sketch by Bedfordshire artist, Stanley Orchart (pictured below), the conservator was surprised to discover another artwork hidden behind the frame. The artwork is a fully finished oil painting depicting a picturesque country cottage.

Stanley Orchart, Demolition of the Christie Alms Housed with the Prison in the Background, 1962 © The Higgins Bedford
Stanley Orchart, Demolition of the Christie Alms Housed with the Prison in the Background, 1962 © The Higgins Bedford

No artist’s signature has been found but further investigation has revealed that two sides of the painting had been cut down to make it fit behind the frame. The signature was most likely removed in this way.

While the artist, date of the painting and the location of the country cottage remains a mystery, there will be a lot of fun in trying to finding out more.

Victoria Partridge, Keeper of Fine and Decorative Art, said: “Having artworks conserved is always an exciting process.

“When works come back they are always so bright and fresh, but this is the first time that a new artwork has been discovered. I look forward to finding out more about it”.

Going to Town – 200 Years of Bedford’s Art opens at The Higgins Bedford on Saturday 10 July 2021 and will feature artworks by JMW Turner, Dora Carrington, Thomas Fisher and Stanley Orchart, highlighting their fascination of Bedford and the River Great Ouse.

Read: New Higgins exhibition ‘Going to Town’ celebrates 200 years of Bedford’s art

“Make sure that if you do visit The Higgins Bedford, you follow all guidance on slowing the spread of COVID-19, including the ‘Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air’ advice,” said Cllr Doug McMurdo, portfolio holder for leisure and culture.

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