Monday, August 13, 2018

Art on Television #2: Bendor Grosvenor and Britain's Lost Masterpieces returns

Britain's Lost Masterpieces returns for a third series tonight - on BBC4 at 9.00pm - with "art sleuth" Dr Bendor Grosvenor and social historian Emma Dabiri

Home page for Britain's Lost Masterpieces

Britain's Lost Masterpieces

This is the third series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces. The series depends on:
  • visiting Britain’s local museums and country houses to look for lost and hidden public treasures.
  • being able to spot a painting which appears to be misattributed - which Bendor Grosvenor has a talent for and has developed a career on the back of it
  • looking beneath or undoing the work of earlier "restorers" who have obscured the original painting
His female sidekick's role is devoted to the social history of the time a painting was painted and/or the place where it was found.

To be honest, while interesting, I'd prefer more technical art history and less social history. However the latter makes sense if you know that Bendor Grosvenor started off as a historian rather than an art specialist.

I don't know how many episodes there are going to be because the BBC has not seen fit to share that information! However there are at least two!

The first episode is about this Rembrandt study

Episode 1: Devon - Rembrandt study 

Bendor discovers a small portrait of Rembrandt in the collection of a National Trust house, Knightshayes Court in Tiverton, Devon. The painting is thought to be a later copy of a self-portrait by Rembrandt now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, but Bendor believes it is in fact a study for the finished picture by Rembrandt himself.
The programme also involves a visit to the world expert on Rembrandt, Ernst van de Wettering, in Amsterdam - who is chair of the Rembrandt Research Project, the team of scholars that is charged with tracking down Rembrandt's works, authenticating them and, when needed, conserving the paintings.

Epsidode 2: Manchester - Zoffany 

(and aspects of the history of the Manchester Art Gallery - including The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857
At the Manchester Art Gallery, Dr Bendor Grosvenor discovers a painting of a country gentleman from the 1770s which he believes has been misattributed to Nathaniel Dance. He feels sure it is in fact by theGerman painter Johann Zoffany, a favourite portraitist of the royal family under King George III. While the painting is restored, Bendor investigates the life of Zoffany - a chancer and adventurer who squandered his royal patronage through a series of predictable errors of judgement.
Note: You can see the Catalogue of the art treasures of the United Kingdom: collected at Manchester in 1857 in an online archive - interleaved and extensively annotated by the original owner, John Peck, of Wisbech St. Mary!

Series 3 Episodes are available on iPlayer for 28 days AFTER being first broadcast - and they are typically repeated on different days and different times.  You can also see clips from all three series of the programme

I don't get the sense that the BBC is really backing this programme - or alternatively the people in the BBC Arts/Media Centre don't know what they're broadcasting.  It doesn't rate a mention in the Media Centre release about A sizzling summer of Arts TV on the BBC in June! It's a bit like producing a book and then forgetting to do the marketing for it!

However it might also be something to do with the fact that there was some sort of spat by Philip Mould of Fake or Fortune occurred when Bendor Grosvenor got to host the first series of this show in 2016.

Grosvenor used to be a Director of Mould's Gallery but left in 2014 and....
Grosvenor maintains that the two series are different, as "Fake or Fortune?" looks at art in private ownership while "Britain’s Lost Masterpieces" focused on paintings in public galleries.
So there! 

More about Bendor Grosvenor

I very much RECOMMEND Bendor Grosvenor's
  • blog Art History News - always a good and often very interesting read and 
  • his Twitter account @arthistorynews - which can be very to the point at times
I offer just one tweet by way of illustration - coincidentally posted the same day as the first episode of Fake or Fortune.....
By way of "street cred" for Bendor we have the following:


  • Pembroke College, Cambridge University - English history degree
  • University of East Anglia - PhD on ‘The Politics of Foreign Policy: Lord Derby and the Eastern Crisis, 1875-8,’ 


  • Grosvenor started his career in politics, as adviser to several members of parliament in the UK, including being an adviser to the Conservative Party on culture policy.
  • 2005 - 2014 Grosvenor worked in and for the London art trade - latterly as a Director of Philip Mould & Company
  • set up his his own company, specializing in establishing the authenticity of paintings by Old Masters. 
  • did the research for and appeared on the BBC programme Fake or Fortune? (2011-2016)
  • researcher and presenter for Britain's Lost Masterpieces since
  • also works as a journalist and writer - he writes regularly for The Financial Times and The Art Newspaper, and has written articles for The Guardian, the British Art Journal, History Today and Country Life.

    Notable achievements - discoveries

    • 2003: first major art discovery was a mis-catalogued portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence
    • 2013: discovered the lost portrait of Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") by Scottish artist Allan Ramsay at Gosford House - now owned by Scottish National Portrait Gallery
    • 2014: recognised a painting put up for auction as being by Joan Carlile, Britain's forst pofessional artist - see Typical! How Britain's first professional female artist was assumed to be a man - now owned by the Tate
    • 2017: he discovered the ‘lost portrait’ of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham at Pollok House, Glasgow, Scotland. 

    Notable achievements - art history groups/committees/bodies

    • helped establish the All Party History Group in the Houses of Parliament;
    • member of the Arts Taskforce set up by David Cameron, under the Chairmanship of Sir John Tusa.
    • member of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Council on National Records and Archives
    • member of the Lord Chancellor’s Forum for Historical Manuscripts and Academic Research.Grosvenor often can be seen on British television shows. From 2011 until 2016, he appeared in the BBC1 series Fake or Fortune, the BBC’s highest-rated fine art program. As of last year, he presents the BBC4 series Britain’s Lost Masterpieces with art historian Jacky Klein.
    He's now based in Edinburgh, and is on the board of Scotland's leading auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull.

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