Charles Hanson's chance chat with taxi driver led to £100,000 painting discovery

Posted on 24/05/2018 in Press Coverage

I have had countless chats with taxi drivers on my travels around the country but one journey proved particularly memorable – and led to a discovery of startling importance, writes Charles Hanson.

It just so happened that my friendly cabbie’s family owned a painting by one of Scotland’s most celebrated artists, George Leslie Hunter.

The painting, Tulips and Fruit, is now set to go to auction in Derbyshire on June 30 with an estimate of £70,000-£100,000.

It turns out it had made its way to Canada before returning to its native Scotland thanks to my driver Donald Young’s grandmother, Caroline Young. She acquired this art treasure in 1965.

This is a hugely important piece. George Leslie Hunter, who was born on the Isle of Bute in 1877, painted both still-life landscapes and portraits and his work is critically acclaimed for its treatment of light.

He was one of a group of four artists known as The Scottish Colourists. Their post-impressionist work has had a formative influence on contemporary Scottish art and culture. The Scottish Colourists blended the work of French Impressionists, such as Monet, Matisse and Cézanne, with the painting traditions of Scotland.

Hunter’s paintings became popular with collectors during his lifetime and have commanded high prices since his death.

Donald’s mother, Liz Young, who lives near Elgin, Morayshire, has finally decided to part with the painting because, such is its value, it has to be permanently locked away in a safe in London.

That means she is unable to enjoy it though she will always treasure the memories it brings of her mother-in-law Caroline and her great love of Scottish art.

Caroline grew up Glasgow in an elegant house surrounded by beautiful paintings. Her father, Thomas Agnew, was a Ballie of the city of Glasgow and wealthy owner of a chocolate factory. Meanwhile, her mother, Lizzie, was an artist. It was here that Caroline developed her love of art.

Following the untimely death of his wife, a heartbroken Thomas took early retirement. He invested all his money in stocks and shares but lost most of his fortune in the Great Depression. Sadly, the house, called Ranfurly, was sold along with most of the paintings.

In 1930, Caroline married Harry Young, a BBC sports journalist. They had four sons, moved to Canada and Harry got a job with the Daily Columnist in Victoria BC.

Caroline started her own art collection for her Canadian home, also named Ranfurly. She loved Scotland and it was during a trip back for a family wedding in January 1965 that she visited the Annan’s gallery in Glasgow and purchased Tulips and Fruit by Leslie Hunter.

The painting will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, in their Summer Fine Art sale on June 30. Entries invited until June 1. To find out more, email [email protected]

Sitting on a windfall? Hansons will be holding free valuations at the Devonshire Dome, The University of Derby, 1 Devonshire Road, Buxton, SK17 6RY, on June 21, 2-4pm. Antiques, collectables, jewellery, silver and more can all be valued. For our full list of free weekly valuations, see our Week Ahead section HERE.