Controversy over Gainsborough painting

EXPERTS have clashed over whether an early Gainsborough painting which goes on display in Suffolk today is actually by the artist at all.

Laurence Cawley

EXPERTS have clashed over whether an early Gainsborough painting which goes on display in Suffolk today is actually by the artist at all.

The work, which its art dealer owner Philip Mould believes is an early version of the National Gallery's 'Cornard Wood', was bought in America at auction where it was catalogued as being painted by a follower of the 17th Century Dutch artist Jacob van Ruisdael.

But Mr Mould claims it is in fact painted by the hand of one of Suffolk's most famous sons.


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The work - allegedly painted by the artist when he was just 13 - will go on display at Gainsborough's House in Sudbury for one month from today.

Mr Mould - whose assertion is disputed - visited Cornard Wood in a bid to bolster his claims that the work is a Gainsborough.

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Speaking about the work, Mr Mould said: “This was a thrilling historical hunt that took me from Los Angeles to Cornard Wood which still stands. It has long been known that Gainsborough was a juvenile genius but this period of his productivity has been rather overlooked by modern scholars.”

Mr Mould has loaned Gainsborough's House the painting for June where, alongside other of the artist's works, it will be on display before being taken to Mr Mould's own gallery in Dover Street, London.

But former Gainsborough's House curator Hugh Belsey does not believe the work is by Gainsborough.

Mr Belsey said he was shown the painting when it was bought in America three years ago by Mr Mould. “I said it wasn't right. It is quite like him (Gainsborough) but it is not by him. The truth is we just don't know what Gainsborough was painting at that age.

“I instantly decided it wasn't right and it is now being presented as something very splendid.”

But Diane Perkins, director at Gainsborough's House, said: “The discovery of this early painting of 'Cornard Wood' has been a major one in terms of recent Gainsborough scholarship. It is both appropriate and very exciting that the picture should be unveiled at the artist's birthplace museum.”

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