VIDEO: THE paintings of Warrington’s “Secret Painter” Eric Tucker, often likened to Lowry, are currently creating more interest at a London exhibition than Hirst, Picasso and Dali!
So far this year, Mayfair gallery owner Alon Zakaim has exhibited the works of Damien Hirst, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali – but none have aroused the interest to match that of Warrington’s very own Eric Tucker, who died three years ago, an unknown in the art world.
Shortly after his death Warrington-Worldwide’s Paul Jackson was fortunate to be given a special viewing of his work on display at his home, which attracted thousands of visitors.
Roll on nearly three years and Some 40 watercolours and oil paintings by the former boxer and labourer are now on display at two London galleries, Alon Zakaim Fine Art and Connaught Brown. It was after his death, aged 86, that his family discovered around 400 paintings at his end-of-terrace former council house. They depicted scenes from local pubs, working men’s clubs and streets he knew well in his home town.
Largely unknown as an artist during his lifetime, Tucker left school aged 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 the galleries of nearby Manchester.
Eric was born in Warrington in 1932. He left school at 14 and went into unskilled manual labourer, alongside fighting as an amateur and, briefly, a professional boxer. He drew from a young age and started painting in oils in his 20s – but was extremely unforthcoming about his talent. He never married or had children and he never left home. Few beyond close family were aware that he painted at all – and even they had no idea of the scale of his production until, at the end of his life, they discovered hundreds of paintings and thousands of drawings stashed around his end-of-terrace house.
A selection of 14 of the artist’s watercolours, offered for sale in an online exhibition in Dec 2020, sold out in a matter of hours.
Although Eric produced his paintings for more than 60 years, until arthritis stopped him from holding a brush, this modest man almost completely refused to exhibit or sell his work.
Not sure how popular the exhibition may prove the former Monks Hall workers family were overjoyed and overwhelmed by the huge queues which stretched around the streets with some people queuing for hours to get a glimpse of not only the art but to also see the untouched living room studio where these works of art were created.
The obvious comparisons with L.S. Lowry are understandable as Eric painted Northern working-class industrial scenes with a similar theme to those made famous by the Salford painter, yet Tucker’s works also captured many local pub and club scenes in a style all of his own yet bringing to mind the works of Renoir and Lautrec.
He was inspired by his favourite artist Edward Burra, best known for his depictions of the urban underworld, black culture and the Harlem scene of the 1930s.
Not only are Tucker’s paintings beautiful works of art, but they are also a potted history of a time gone by and provide a fantastic social history that is very relevant to Warrington and it’s people.
Warrington-Worldwide were fortunate to be given a private preview of the exhibition and also got the chance to meet Eric’s family and to chat to them about their memories of the man and his art.
Only when Eric’s brother Tony began to catalogue the paintings did the huge extent of the lifetime of work become apparent. Even up until the day before the exhibition Tony was finding new boxes of sketches out in the garden shed. A unique trove of six decades of art were left by the local painter which is so much more than art, it documents the town’s people and places throughout the years that Eric painted.