LESS than three years after his death, Warrington’s ‘secret Lowry’ is continuing to wow the art world.

The depths of Eric Tucker’s talent was discovered when his family were astonished to find around 370 paintings and thousands of drawings at his end-of-terrace house in King George Crescent when his health began to deteriorate.

That led to a pop-up exhibition at Eric’s Padgate home in October 2018 which captured the nation’s hearts.

There have been many more highlights since then, including the family fulfilling Eric’s final wish to have an exhibition in his hometown with a full showcase at Warrington and Museum and Art Gallery.

Now his evocative images of northern and working class life have made their way from Warrington to the West End – to hang on the same walls that Picasso’s have graced.

Warrington Guardian:

Alon Zakaim Fine Art and Connaught Brown have teamed up to present 40 of the late artist’s pieces in Eric Tucker: The Secret Painter from Saturday until August 3.

The two leading London galleries deal in work by impressionists and modernists so Eric’s work will be on the same walls as some of the very artists who inspired him such as Chagall, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas.

Joe Tucker, Eric’s nephew, said: “It’s a chance for people to see more of Eric’s work, and of course to own a piece – we’re showing 40 paintings across the two galleries, a few of which will be familiar to visitors to last year’s exhibition at Warrington Museum but most of which have never been seen before.

“There’s a mix of oils and watercolours covering the three broad themes of Eric’s work: streets scenes, bar and pub scenes and the circus and cabaret.

“All of them were painted in his mother’s front room at 14 King George Crescent.

Warrington Guardian:

Eric's nephew Joe Tucker

“After 60 years of painting in obscurity, it’s his first selling exhibition – at not one, but two of the UK’s leading galleries.

“We couldn’t have dreamt of that back in 2018 when we first put his work on show.

“So it’s very exciting - and I’m hoping another step towards Eric finding a place for himself in British art.”

Largely unknown as an artist during his lifetime, Eric left school at 14 and worked as a manual labourer, painting in between shifts and after hours, often late into the night.

Self-educated in art, he was a regular visitor to north west galleries but was unforthcoming about his hidden talent.

Warrington Guardian:

He would often surreptitiously sketch pictures of people under the table in the pub and capture the changing face of Warrington over six decades.

The only piece he exhibited before his death, aged 86, was a painting called ‘Ready for Christmas’.

He was reluctantly persuaded to enter it in the annual Warrington Arts Purchase Prize exhibition staged by Warrington Arts Council at the art gallery in 1995.

The picture won and Eric’s work became part of the town’s collections.

After his death, hundreds of paintings of similar quality were found crammed into cupboards, wardrobes and the garden shed.

Warrington Guardian:

Eric's brother Tony in the artist's living room 'studio'

Anthony Brown and Alon Zakaim, directors at the two host galleries, say Eric’s art – likened to L.S. Lowry and Edward Burra – now has the recognition it deserves.

In a statement they said: “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. 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.”

Warrington Guardian:

Art historian Richard Cork added: “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.”

To celebrate the exhibition, Warrington craft brewery Twisted Wheel Brew Co is also releasing a limited-edition beer.

Tucker’s Palette – Brewed with British hops – is an extra strong bitter and a nod to the artist’s favourite tipple.

It will be available in a selection of pubs, including The Albion in Battersby Lane where used to sit and paint.

Laura Dearman, from Twisted Wheel, said: “When we first heard about Eric’s story we loved the idea of creating a beer which celebrated the life and work of a true Warrington artist.

Warrington Guardian:

“For a while we have wanted to brew an extra strong bitter for cask. Sometimes the modern craft beer industry can look down on a bitter, but we think it’s something to be treasured, just like our pubs.

“Enjoy a pint and toast the artist, remembering the taste of the pub as Eric painted it.”