A Drab Landscape on ‘Antiques Roadshow’ Turns Out to be an Early David Hockney Worth up to $36,000

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For decades, a British family believed that a humble landscape painting hanging in their home was made by a young David Hockney. Then one member of the clan took the artwork onto the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow program to find out if the theory was correct.

It turns out the painting was probably made by the iconic artist—and it’s now estimated to be worth between £20,000–£30,000 ($24,000–$36,000).

On the episode of the show, which aired earlier this week, an unassuming, elderly man made a case for the painting’s legitimacy. Back in 1957, the man explained, his grandfather was working as a railway signalman at a train station near the small southeastern port town of Felixstowe and spotted a pair of young painters on the platform.

“He noticed their equipment so he invited them into the signal box to have a cup of tea,” the man, who wished to remain anonymous, said of his grandfather. “He eventually invited them home for Sunday lunch because they were living in straitened circumstances.”

As a gesture of support, the signalman ended up purchasing a painting from each of the two men. Both artworks remain with his descendants today.

On the bottom corner of one of the artworks is a sloppy signature: “David Hockney.” 

That’s about the only recognizable link between the British artist and the painting, which otherwise depicts a rather drab farm landscape in muted greens and browns—a far cry from the brighter and, ahem, splashier scenes for which he is best known. One of the artwork’s edges was even sawed off so as to fit into a frame. 

“It’s not what everyone would think of as a Hockney, is it?” Antiques Roadshow’s art expert Rupert Maas said to the painting’s owner, who looked as if he was about to be given bad news.

“Well, I did do a bit of homework, having initially been incredulous,” Maas went on. “Turns out [Hockney] was in the village near Felixstowe in 1957. It was his last year at [the Bradford College of Art]. He was there with another artist called John Locker.”

The artist had pilgrimaged to the area because of a shared admiration for Suffolk landscape painter John Constable. “Hence this meeting with your grandfather, which is quite extraordinary,” Maas said. “So I think it is a Hockney. I’ve come around to your way of thinking,” he told the owner.

Maas asked how much the painting might be worth. The man, in response, hazarded a guess: £10,000 ($12,000).

“You might be right,” Maas said, “but I think it might be closer to £20,000–£30,000.”

The man, astonished, repeated the numbers under his breath, then buried his head behind the easel-mounted painting. A big smile was on his face when he came back up. 

 

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