Does the Lytham St Annes Art Collection hold a long-hidden gem by one of Britain’s most renowned artists?
A painting entitled A St Bernard Dog, which has been gathering dust in storage for more than 70 years, is among the works featuring in the current exhibition being staged by the Friends of the Lytham St Annes Art Collection at Lytham’s Fylde Gallery.
It is thought to be the first time it has been on public display since being donated to the Collection in 1942 - and was found to be credited to an artist called ‘Llangl’ when, along with other works in the Collection, it was recently subject of a detailed indexing exercise called Tagging the Treasures.
But it is thought it could have been painted by Edwin Henry Landseer, a 19th century artist who specialised in animal portraits and also turned his hand to sculptures, most notably the lions in London’s Trafalgar Square.
Many Landseer works change hands for six-figure sums.
Now, the Friends are asking for donations at the exhibition so they can have the giant 3ft x 4ft painting cleaned and restored to allow for a comprehensive analysis by experts.
Margaret Race, chairman of the Friends, said: “There is such a thing as a Landseer dog and an expert has confirmed ours is a classic example of one, the breed being Newfoundland not St Bernard, and Sue Cannon, a Tagging the Treasures volunteer, has gathered further evidence which she believes could prove that it was in fact painted by Landseer.
“Sue has been to the National Gallery in London to study the archives there of a famous art dealer of the time, Thomas Agnew and Sons.
“Our painting has the dealers’ sticker on the back which means it passed through their hands and it is believed they would not have dealt with an unknown artist.
“The fact that it is signed by an H Llangl has puzzled Sue but she now believes that credit to be an amalgam.
“She tried without success to find out anything about Llangl but did discover that Landseer would paint the dog as the subject of a picture and then might allow his sister to paint the background. That has led to the thought that the double l in Llangl might stand for two Landseers.
“Meanwhile, Richard Ormond, a former National Gallery director and an expert on Landseer, has said the artistic treatment of the dog has some of the hallmarks of Landseer’s early style in the 1820s, but without a close inspection, a proper judgement cannot be made.
“We are really excited and this has been one of the fascinating aspects of Tagging the Treasures, which is up for a national award.”
The Friends’ Liverpool Influences exhibition continues daily at the Fylde Gallery above Booths, Haven Road, until November 13.