Britain's Lost Masterpieces

BBC (3 x 60 mins)

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Nominated for 2017 RTS Scotland Best Documentary & Specialist Factual: Arts award

Join Dr. Bendor Grosvenor and Jacky Klein as they seek out the work of some of the biggest names in art, lying hidden in local museums and country houses all across Britain. Britain’s publicly owned art collection contains over 210,000 paintings. But at any one time, over 80% of these are locked away in storage. And, among this secret treasure trove of mystery paintings are some of the finest works of art the public owns - but didn’t know they had. There might even be some priceless Old Masters lost in the vaults.


The Swansea museum store contains everything from a stuffed pigeon to a police car but can Bendor and Jacky reveal a lost masterpiece that will not only become a jewel of Swansea museum’s collection, but also re-write art history? Also in this episode, a rare appearance at the museum of a giant painting of local coal miners prompts Jacky to re-examine the life of the man who painted them, the renowned Polish artist Josef Herman. She tracks down those who remember him in South Wales. 


Haddo House is one of Britain’s most northerly stately homes. Tucked away in the wilds of Aberdeenshire, it has been home to Prime Ministers and earls - but is it also home to some of Scotland’s greatest lost paintings? Nearby, in the storerooms of the Montrose Museum lies a mystery painting with a giant hole in it. The portrait shows Richard Mead, the patron of one of Scotland’s most celebrated painters, Allan Ramsay. According to the history books, the painting is a copy of a painting in the National Portrait Gallery in London. But has there been an unfortunate mix up, and is the painting in London in fact the pretender?


In this episode Bendor and Jacky visit the Ulster Museum, as well as the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont – in which a controversial painting once slashed with a knife is now kept in a room away from public view. The subjects are believed to be William III and the Pope – these two characters in one picture would be guaranteed to rouse the passions on both sides of the sectarian divide. But has the painting been a case of mistaken identity all along? Bendor and Jacky investigate.