The Francis Bacon painting at the centre of a cultural tug-of-war over its potential sale was almost lost in a flood.
Figure Study II was saved from soggy oblivion by a part-time curatorial assistant who, with colleagues, rescued it from rising waters in the cellars of Batley Town Hall.
The tale was re-told this week by Jeff Woodward, a retired solicitor living in Huddersfield whose grandfather Albert Sharp told him the story before his death in 1975.
“It was sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s,” said Jeff.
“There was a flood and my grandfather rescued the painting, which he always referred to as The Magdalene, from storage. It was worth millions even then. The fact that he saved it was a feather in his cap, but he didn’t make a big song-and-dance about it. He was just an everyday guy who liked a pint.”
Mr Woodward called the Examiner after reading our coverage of the painting, created by Bacon in 1946/46, and which could be worth as much as £60m. The leader of Kirklees Council, Clr David Sheard, has called for a debate over its future.
“We are jolly lucky to be having the debate because it could have been lost forever in the flood,” said Jeff. “That puts it in a different perspective. I am flabbergasted that it was nearly lost.”
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