Hidden Group of Seven painting found on back of another art piece

Few people in the world own a painting by Group of Seven artist Alexander Young Jackson and fewer still have the experience of one B.C. gold miner who got more than he bargained for when he bought the art piece.

Several years ago, Peter Wright, a self-proclaimed lover of the arts, bought A.Y. Jackson's Onward Ranch.

It was only after he purchased it that Wright discovered there was a second painting by the acclaimed Canadian artist hidden in the back, depicting the historic gold rush town of Barkerville, B.C. 

"It's like finding a little treasure," Wright told CBC's host of North by Northwest Sheryl Mackay.

Wright said he wishes he could take credit for the find but it was actually one of his lifelong friends who uncovered the second hidden painting.

"Paul Crawford is an art curator and every time he walks up to a painting — it doesn't matter if it's in a B&B or in a some hole of a house or whatever — he pulls it off the wall and looks at the back," Wright said.

To their surprise, on the flipside of the original painting under the frame, there was a colourful image of buildings and a road next to a tree-covered hill. Wright said he immediately recognized it as Barkerville because he has spent a lot of time there.

He worked with curators in Barkerville to prove the painting was authentic and an actual depiction of the town.

"We researched the heck out of it and found out through black-and-white pictures, and some of the curatorial staff in Barkerville who helped us, that this is an A.Y. Jackson painting, 1949, of Barkerville," he said.

One of the buildings in the painting, now called the Kwong Sang Wing store, is still standing in the historic town.  

Painting unveiled to public

Wright decided to put the painting on display in Barkerville to make it available to the public. He said it is important to him to share the piece.

"You can't really show it around to hundreds of people in a normal home but this is a way to share it," he said. "When would you find a Group of Seven painting on the main street of Barkerville? That's pretty special, I think."

A. Y. Jackson's Barkerville, B.C. is on display at the Barkerville Visitors' Reception Centre and will be there for the rest of the year.

To listen to the full interview with Peter Wright about the painting, click on the audio link below.

With files from North by Northwest.