‘Lost’ Fergusson masterpiece was on lounge wall

The lost masterpiece. Pic: contributed
The lost masterpiece. Pic: contributed
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A PAINTING by one of Scotland’s most famous artists has been rediscovered, after it spent the last 50 years hanging on a living room wall In Edinburgh.

JD Fergusson’s portrait of a mystery French woman is set to go on display for the first time in half a century after the owner responded to an appeal by the National Galleries of Scotland.

The masterpiece will now become a key part of a 
major retrospective of the artist’s work, which opens on December 7.

Last year the show’s curator, Alice Strang, appealed for any works by the artist, who died in 1961, or his former friends and associates, to come forward.

In December the owner of the Portrait de Mademoiselle H painting contacted Ms Strang with “a phone call that curators can only dream of”. JD Fergusson’s 1907 work was painted during his influential and successful Paris period, although the identity of his subject is not known.

It was bought by the current owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, in the early 1960s and has not been seen in public since.

Ms Strang said: “I had gone to work during Christmas and New Year to tidy up my desk, when I received the most 
marvellous phone call.

“He asked if I might like see a painting hanging on his 
sitting-room wall.

“By that afternoon, I was standing in front of the beautiful Portrait de Mademoiselle H and on the spot I asked if he might be willing to lend it to us.

“It was the kind of phone call that curators can only dream of”.

The Edinburgh-based owner said: “I went with my mother to the posthumous sale in about 1962 of Fergusson’s works that had remained in his possession – I think at Aitken Dott’s [art dealer] in George Street.

“There were two portraits side by side, one being the portrait of Mademoiselle H and the other of a man. My mother said she would buy Mademoiselle H and suggested that I should buy the other one. To my regret I didn’t buy it, but she bought Mademoiselle. It hung in her sitting room till her death and since then has been in our sitting room.

The Leith-born painter moved to Paris and mixed with painters such as Derain, Matisse and Picasso, who all influenced his later work.