On March 9, Bonhams will be holding one of its renowned auctions of 20th Century British Art, which will feature a remarkable, and previously unknown, painting by impressionist Walter Sickert. So unusual was the find that Wendy Baron, an expert on the artist's work, was "astounded" that an unknown painting even existed.
The piece, entitled 'The Blind Sea Captain', is thought to have been painted by Sickert in Dieppe in 1914. It depicts an old man accompanied by a woman, presumably his mother or wife. The latter holds the other's arm, leading him away from the water's edge.
The painting was seen briefly at an exhibition in Bradford in 1930, then vanished - until now. Baron compared the painting to a known sketch by the artist which has a similar theme, stating that in 58 years of studying Sickert she had found nothing to suggest that "he ever returned to this subject".
Its rarity and wonderful condition are not the only alluring aspects of this unlikely find. Sickert himself was a controversial figure. An important influence on avant-garde art of the early 20th Century, he became notorious for painting nudes, four of which were entitled 'The Camden Town Murder' - named after the gruesome death of a prostitute in 1907.
Furthermore, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell has suggested that Sickert was in fact the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, based on her own investigations into DNA evidence. Cornwell has been criticised and little other proof has been offered - but this inevitably adds to the mystique surrounding this remarkable composition.
The painting is, unsurprisingly, on sale with an estimate of £40,000-60,000. Its re-discovery presents art investors with an excellent opportunity to purchase a notable and unusually sentimental piece by one of Britain's leading impressionists. It will no doubt appreciate significantly in years to come since it is effectively a 'new' work.
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