Weymouth artist reunited with Hardy portrait

Dorset Echo: BRUSH WITH CHANCE: Lynn Hunt who bought John Lee’s painting of Thomas Hardy at Birkin House BRUSH WITH CHANCE: Lynn Hunt who bought John Lee’s painting of Thomas Hardy at Birkin House

A WEYMOUTH artist has been reunited with a painting he created 23 years ago.

Octogenarian John Lee was asked by the owner of Birkin House near Dorchester to paint a portrait of Dorset’s famous literary son Thomas Hardy more than 20 years ago.

The picture was sent off to the house, which has been run as a wedding venue and accommodation in recent years, and Mr Lee thought he had seen the last of it.

However, last week the contents of the house was auctioned off by Duke’s of Dorchester as the owners decided to retire and cease the business and the Hardy painting was picked up by Wyke Regis resident Lynn Hunt.

She said: “I was there last week driving by and I just popped in as I saw the Duke’s sign outside.

“It was the day before the sale and I saw the picture and went back the following day specifically to try and get that picture.

“I didn’t think I was going to be lucky but I was and I got it.”

When Mrs Hunt returned home she saw the painting had Mr Lee’s name and address on it and, as it was nearby, she popped round to see if she could meet the artist.

To her delight Mr Lee was there and she invited him round to her house to come and see his painting.

Mr Lee, who made headlines last year when he painted portraits of seven Olympic and Paralympic sailors, including one he presented to Sir Ben Ainslie, said he never expected to see the Hardy painting again.

He said: “It’s delightful and I’m really glad to have it go to someone that really wants it, it’s very encouraging for me.

“It’s all so strange to think that this painting has been on the wall at Birkin House and people from all over the world would have been staying there and seen it.

“This lady has come along and she was determined to get it and it seems it’s been waiting for her.”

Mr Lee added: “When I saw in the paper that the contents of Birkin House were coming up for sale I wondered whether it would still be there.

“But I never expected to see it again.”

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