BBC art historian in firing line as experts probe whether painting is the fabled ‘Lost Gainsborough’

Which is ‘Lost Gainsborough’ is real? BBC art historian in the firing line as experts probe discovery of new painting – despite him identifying a different artwork two decades ago

  • BBC’s show set to investigate landscape owned by businessman Mark Cropper
  • It may be a lost work by the British artist Thomas Gainsborough or a clever fake
  • The painting being ‘The Lost Gainsborough’ will delight its owner Mr Cropper 
  • It would prove embarrassing for Philip Mould who identified a different painting

As a presenter of the BBC’s Fake Or Fortune?, Philip Mould is supposed to be better than most at spotting the difference between an Old Master and an impostor.

But the art expert’s professional reputation is hanging in the balance, thanks to his own programme’s latest investigation.

More than five million viewers will tune into the new series of the art detective show later this month to see if a landscape owned by businessman Mark Cropper is a lost work by the British artist Thomas Gainsborough, or a carefully crafted fake by Thomas Barker of Bath, who specialised in copying the master’s works in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Philip Mould is supposed to be better than most at spotting the difference between an Old Master and an impostor. But the art expert’s professional reputation is hanging in the balance

Philip Mould is supposed to be better than most at spotting the difference between an Old Master and an impostor. But the art expert’s professional reputation is hanging in the balance

More than five million viewers will tune into the new series of the art detective show later this month to see if a landscape owned by businessman Mark Cropper (pictured) is a lost work by the British artist Thomas Gainsborough

More than five million viewers will tune into the new series of the art detective show later this month to see if a landscape owned by businessman Mark Cropper (pictured) is a lost work by the British artist Thomas Gainsborough

A ruling that the painting is ‘The Lost Gainsborough’ will delight its owner, but prove embarrassing for Mould who identified a near identical painting as such in 1999. That work was subsequently sold at auction and is now in unknown private hands.

Mould reveals his connection to the earlier Lost Gainsborough to co-host Fiona Bruce in the programme. He says: ‘Back in 1999 I was getting known for specialising in Gainsborough. I was shown a picture that looked just like Mark’s. The owner believed he had found the Lost Gainsborough and I thought it looked right.

‘It had been doubted as a genuine work since the 1960s but when it came into the gallery we cleaned it and restored it and showed it to the then authority on Gainsborough who accepted it as an original and it was then sold at auction. Mark’s picture wasn’t around at the time and seeing it now gives me pause for thought.’

Later in the show he admits he may have to eat humble pie. He says: ‘If it did turn out to be the lost painting I would have take a big gulp and swallow my pride. It wouldn’t be the first time.’

The BBC has released a press preview of tonight’s show but minus the crucial conclusion.

  • Fake Or Fortune will be shown on BBC1 on Thursday, July 25, at 9pm.
Mould (left) reveals his connection to the earlier Lost Gainsborough to co-host Fiona Bruce (right) in the programme

Mould (left) reveals his connection to the earlier Lost Gainsborough to co-host Fiona Bruce (right) in the programme

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