A new exhibition is opening at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery next month to fulfil the final wish of an undiscovered local artist.
When former boxer and building labourer Eric Tucker died in 2018, he became the unlikely art sensation of the year – the so-called ‘Secret Lowry’, who’d hidden his talent under a bushel for more than 60 years.
Now Warrington Museum & Art Gallery are honouring the late artist with a tribute he hardly dared dream of – a full retrospective at the 170-year-old gallery.
Though he painted for more than 60 years, Tucker rarely spoke of his passion for art and made little effort to show his work.
His nephew, Joe Tucker, said: “Amongst his piles of drawings we found a couple of old rejection letters from the Royal Academy, for their summer show.
“I think the rejection probably hurt him, he gave up trying to find recognition but he never stopped painting.
“Wherever he went he would take a stock of paper, often scraps, to record the people and the places.
“He drew surreptitiously in pubs and bars, often holding the paper below the table level, drawing whilst taking an occasional sip of his drink.”
A few months before his death, Tucker spoke to younger brother, Tony, of his dream of an exhibition.
Although his close family knew he painted, they were staggered to find more than 400 paintings, and thousands of drawings in his small, end-of-terrace house in Padgate, Warrington.
Hundreds of pieces were stacked up in every room; in cupboards, on top of wardrobes and even in the garden shed.
Determined to honour his last wish, the family opened his house as a gallery for a one-off, two-day exhibition.
Tony said: “We didn’t know how many people would come and have a look, we thought maybe one or two of the neighbours.”
In fact some 2,000 people came from near and far, queuing round the block to see the artist’s sensitive and evocative depictions of working-class life.
The story of Tucker’s paintings made national headlines, with critics feting the work as “serious stuff” (The Daily Mail) and “a remarkable, important find”. (The i Newspaper).
Joe said: “The exhibition at Eric’s home attracted a huge amount of attention; from the media, his friends and neighbours, and even complete strangers.
“It seemed as though Eric was finally beginning to find the recognition that had eluded him in life.”
The success of the pop-up exhibition paved the way for talks between the Tucker family and Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, who have been working together for over a year to curate Eric’s first solo exhibition at a public gallery.
Eric Tucker: The Unseen Artist will feature a broad selection of Tucker’s paintings and drawings, including favourites from the exhibition at his home and many never-before-seen images.
It will also feature a recreation of Eric’s small front room, in which every single painting was created.
Roger Jeffery, producer at Culture Warrington – the charity that runs Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, Pyramid and Parr Hall – is delighted to be unveiling the exhibition next month.
He said: “Eric’s story is so unique and his portrayal of our town is something that really resonates with the Warrington public, so it’s a real honour to be finally presenting his work at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery this winter.”
Eric Tucker: The Unseen Artist runs from Saturday November 23 2019 to Sunday 23 February 2020 at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery and is free to visit.
For more information on Eric Tucker’s life and work see
Check out Warrington Worldwide’s exclusive tour of the artist’s former home below.