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Roadshow Rarity: Early Hockney Work Featured On BBC Program

March 22, 2023
a landscape by David Hockney

The David Hockney painting depicting Trimley St Mary (Image: BBC/Antiques Roadshow)

Antiques Roadshow, both the American and original British versions, is a lovely program that allows people to rummage through their attics and storage units to see if some family heirlooms have any real monetary value. In one episode of the British show that aired recently, a man made an extraordinary claim about a painting his family owns that’s not so far-fetched after all.

An anonymous gentleman brought a rather drab landscape painting to where Antiques Roadshow was shooting at Belmont House in Kent in southeastern England. In talking to one of the show’s art experts, Rupert Maas, he claimed that this rather ordinary painting is an early work by none other than David Hockney, one of Britain’s most famous and influential living artists. Of course, it’s no wonder why many present were skeptical of the claim. Hockney is mostly known for bright, bold colors in his works, whether it’s a painting, a print, or an iPad drawing. The story goes that, in 1957, the man’s grandfather was working as a railway signalman near Felixstowe, a coastal town in Suffolk. He saw two young men waiting on the train station platform with artists’ equipment there. His grandfather invited the two into the signal box for a cup of tea and later invited them back to his family home for Sunday lunch. Given they were poor art students, the man said that his grandfather offered to buy a painting from each of them, resulting in the family owning this rather plain pastoral landscape with the signature at the bottom-right reading “David Hockney”.

Though it sounds a little too good to be true, Maas dug up some information that makes the whole story sound a bit more plausible. When this story allegedly occurred, Hockney was in his last year at Bradford College in West Yorkshire. In that year, he and another student named John Locker made a trip down to Suffolk because they were great admirers of the landscape painter John Constable, who frequently featured the countryside of his native Suffolk in his work. Maas described the painting as “very rough and ready”, and commented on the work’s dull color palette, saying, “I have this idea they only had green and brown with them, because they were broke.” The owner hoped the work would be worth around £10K (or $12.2K). He seemed overcome when Rupert Maas said that it would more likely sell for £20K to £30K (or $24.4K to $36.7K).