Paint­ing worth­less, says ex­pert

Still life bought for £165,000 has au­then­tic­ity cast in doubt after foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - NEWS - BY LAURA HARD­ING

A paint­ing bought for £165,000 and at­trib­uted to artist Wil­liam Ni­chol­son has failed to con­vince the artist’s lead­ing ex­pert of its au­then­tic­ity and been re­jected as close to worth­less.

The still life of a glass jug and pears was re­jected by Pa­tri­cia Reed, the lead­ing author­ity on Ni­chol­son, and left out of the artist’s lat­est cat­a­logue raisonne – the of­fi­cial list of all his known works.

The piece was ex­am­ined on BBC One’s Fake Or For­tune? but a thor­ough foren­sic case was not enough to per­suade Reed that the paint­ing is gen­uine.

The pro­gramme ob­tained new ev­i­dence that sci­en­tif­i­cally linked the paint­ing to Ni­chol­son’s own paint box which is kept in his grand­son’s house, and a hand­writ­ing ex­pert also con­firmed that writ­ing on the back of the paint­ing was very likely to have been writ­ten by Ni­chol­son him­self.

Pre­sen­ter Fiona Bruce met re­formed art forger John My­att to ask him if he had ever faked a Ni­chol­son, with My­att re­veal­ing that he had, but not this paint­ing.

The pro­gramme found that while there are phys­i­cal as­pects to the paint­ing that link it to Ni­chol­son, there is not enough di­rect ev­i­dence to prove that he ex­e­cuted the work him­self.

It has been sug­gested that be­cause there was a group of am­a­teur painters tu­tored by Ni­chol­son in his stu­dio and else­where dur­ing the 1930s, known as the “Sun­day painters”, the paint­ing might be by one of them, un­der his su­per­vi­sion.

One of Ni­chol­son’s most fa­mous stu­dents in this group was Win­ston Churchill.

Bruce said: “I’m gen­uinely shocked by that ver­dict. I didn’t ex­pect it. I thought the case was so strong.”

Fake Or For­tune? is on BBC One on Sun­days at 9pm.

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