United Kingdom

The secret Lowry: Unskilled labourer who left 400 paintings will have work exhibited in London

An unskilled labourer who left a secret legacy of 70-years worth of artworks stacked in the cupboards at his terraced home is to have his work displayed at two of London's top galleries.

Ex-boxer Eric Tucker, whose works have been likened to LS Lowry, left school aged 14 without any qualifications and worked for the majority of his life as a builder in Warrington, Cheshire. 

But unbeknown to his family the painter created over 400 oil and watercolours in his front room, depicting 'the very heart of northern working-class life' in his hometown over a seven-decade period. 

Rather than offering them for sale or exhibition Eric kept his works out of public view - and instead stacked them around his unassuming end terraced property where he lived in for virtually all his life including his airing cupboard, in his shed and on top of his wardrobes.

The massive painting collection was only discovered by relatives after the bachelor, who lived alone and braved arthritis in his later years, passed away in July 2018 aged 86 and they went to clear out his home.

A scene by Tucker depicting a smokey bar. He often drank in local pubs and working men's clubs and his paintings were often based on barroom scenes

A scene of flat capped locals passing what appears to be a factory. The painter did a variety of portraits and landscapes

Most of the pictures feature Lowry-type scenes from smoky pubs, tumbledown terraced streets and factories and showing flat capped locals with their wives.  

There are also several paintings of clowns, following on from Eric's love of the circus as a child and portraits of his parents.

Now the former professional boxer – whose paintings were rejected by the art establishment while he was alive – is finally to have his talent celebrated after the unexpected discovery led critics to laud him as 'the secret Lowry'.  

Alon Zakaim Fine Art and Connaught Brown in West London have teamed up to present 40 of the late artist's evocative scenes of working-class life in the industrial North in their collaborative exhibition, Eric Tucker: The Secret Painter.

Previously Eric's former home had temporarily turned into a free art gallery for one weekend only to display his paintings and they also went 9on display at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery followed in 2000. 

Ex-boxer Eric Tucker (left and right) whose works have been likened to LS Lowry, left school aged 14 without any qualifications and worked as a builder in Warrington, Cheshire. His paintings were discovered in 2018 when he died aged 86

A barroom scene depicts a rosey cheeked couple sharing a loving glance as another local enjoys a pint

A dynamic barroom scene from Tucker, with watercolour figures overlaying each other and a mix of perspectives

A colourful oil depiction of an evening bar scene, with something clearly capturing the attention of a woman and man in the foreground

Tucker's works have been likened to LS Lowry due to the slim figures and crowded street scenes 

A painting by Tucker of a woman believed to be his mother, with a small passport photo tucked in the side of the frame

Eric Tucker's dining room, featuring a painting of his father, and a number of his personal effects

A selection of 14 of the artist's watercolours, offered for sale in an online exhibition in Dec 2020, sold out in a matter of hours. 

Critics have praised Tucker as 'a real discovery' and the 'a remarkable, important find', drawing comparisons with, amongst others, L.S. Lowry and Edward Burra.

Anthony Brown and Alon Zakaim, Directors at the two host galleries said in a joint statement: 'We are delighted to be showing the work of Eric Tucker who holds an interesting place in modern British art.

'Although described as the 'secret Lowry', his work is far more complex than that. While Lowry paints from afar, surveying the area, Tucker throws the viewer into the midst of a scene. 

Eric Tucker with his mother (left) and as a young man (right). Eric the oldest of three children was born at the same property in 1932 and left school in 1946 when he was just 14

An atmospheric bar scene in oil paint, with two figures looking directly towards the viewer

A bar scene depicts a group of people playing cards and drinking beer as one of them smokes

A portrait of a man holding a bird, in oil paint. Eric was often seen sketching whilst in public before going home to paint 

There are also several paintings of clowns, following on from Eric's love of the circus as a child and portraits of his parents

A diptych of similar scenes painting in vivid primary colours and presented next to each other on the wall of Eric's living room

A sketch of two men smoking by Eric, with a caption reading 'TWO DRAGS'

Eric served four years in the Royal Horse Guards in Germany

'He painted his community in Warrington without judgement, but instead with humour and witty observation. 

'Although largely hidden during his lifetime, we are looking forward to giving Tucker's work the recognition it deserves.' 

Richard Cork, critic and art historian said: 'Now that his art has at last been rescued from undeserved obscurity, it enables us to share a whole range of vividly defined emotions and experiences at the very heart of northern working-class life.'

Eric the oldest of three children was born at the property in 1932 and left school in 1946 when he was just 14.

He took up boxing and served four years in the Royal Horse Guards in Germany before working for local building contractors Arthur Monk in Warrington.

He often drank in local pubs and working men's clubs and his paintings were often based on barroom scenes.

Younger brother Tony said previously: 'We did know Eric had a passion for art but never realised he had hoarded a huge collection in his home.

Eric took up boxing in his younger years (left); and pictured with a family member (right)

Eric Tucker (right) and his younger brother Tony (left). Tony said previously: 'We did know Eric had a passion for art but never realised he had hoarded a huge collection in his home

Two horses and a Border Collie dog with the factories of a city in the background. In oil paint

His works are credited with depicting 'the very heart of northern working-class life' in his hometown of Warrington over a seven decade period

A man and woman smoke inside with a painting which appears to be in the style of LS Lowry seen in the background

'He was a very modest man who never talked up his skills and despite doing sketches in his local he appeared to everyone just to be an ordinary Joe.

'Now all of the family have been wonderful, and we've all worked together in the hope that we will do justice to Eric's work justice and get him the recognition he so richly deserves.

'We're just sad that he isn't alive to see this all happen.'

Eric, who never married, did attempt to get recognition for his work – but it was a bitter experience. Tony says he managed to sell two paintings through a dealer, but the stress – and the shock of having to pay commission to the dealer – put him off. 

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