Thornbury art collector 'swindled' out of £600 by Wotton auction house
Richard Smith with his auction brochure and painting by Julian Trevelyan which he believes to be a fake
A THORNBURY man claims he has been swindled out of £600 after being sold a fake piece of art.
Richard Smith, of St David’s Road, bought what he believed was a bonafide painting by leading 20th century artist and poet Julian Trevelyan at Wotton Auction Rooms.
Mr Smith, 60, paid £600 for the piece, which features an abstract figure raking leaves next to a wooden wheelbarrow, in his first venture into the art world.
But a year after snapping up the artwork, Mr Smith said he was dumbfounded to be told it was a fake.
"I found out last month it is a fake and is worth absolutely nothing," he told the Gazette. "I was in total shock at first. I can’t afford to lose £600, that is a lot of money."
Mr Smith, who is currently out of work, asked Bohun Gallery in Oxfordshire, which handles the estate of Julian Trevelyan, to cast its eye over the piece only to find it was not a real Trevalyan.
"I was thinking of getting into collecting art and had been reading up on Trevalyan," he said. "So the auction caught my eye as it was on the front cover of the catalogue.
"You go along to an auction like this and think what you are buying is one thing. So to find out at a later date it is not what you thought it was is really shocking."
The picture, which was lot 818 in a two-day antique sale in March 2012, was printed in the catalogue with the description: "A gouache study by Julian Trevelyan in tones of green and yellow of a garden scene with figure raking leaves besides a wheelbarrow, signed bottom right Trevelyan and with label verso J Trevelyan 1910 - 1989, 24 x 34cm in white painted frame."
The painting came with a guide price of £500 to £600.
Mr Smith said he had contacted the auction house for a refund and had been hoping to sort out the matter privately. However, he has so far been refused any apology or return of funds and is now considering taking legal action in the small claims court.
"I have a letter from a specialist saying it is a fake," he said. "I bought the piece in good faith that it was a real Trevalyan and it being promoted on the front cover just makes it worse."
Auctioneer Philip Taubenheim said they were working with Mr Smith to resolve the matter but Wotton Auction Rooms remained convinced, as at the auction last year, that the painting was genuine.
The second highest bidder who missed out on the painting at auction is interested in buying it.
"It’s an odd one," said Mr Taubenheim. "We are perfectly happy that it is correct. More importantly the underbidder is also convinced that it is right and he would still like to buy it."
However he said that Mr Smith had cut the oil painting out of its original frame, in which it had been sealed with paper, and subsequently devalued it.
Mr Taubenheim explained: "The problem is it’s not mint anymore. The underbidder is still happy to take it so we can get him his money back, pretty much, but he’s not going to pay full price.
"We handle something like 15,000 lots a year and out of that you’re always going to get something that someone thinks is wrong. If it’s wrong, we’ll have it back. The general opinion was that this was right."
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