A HISTORIC piece of art thought to be the earliest known oil painting of Pooley Bridge was discovered in an attic in America.

Art dealer Greg Page-Turner came across the 18th century painting by Joseph Farington online when it was being sold by an auction house in Virginia in 2008.

News that the new road bridge at Pooley Bridge had been lifted into position prompted Greg to tell the story of his painting, which looks as though it could have been painted from the historic bridge over the River Eamont that the village takes its name from.

He’s hoping local historians might be able to give him more information about the landscape captured by Farington all those years ago.

Greg said: “I recognized the unidentified landscape in the auction catalogue as being both British and possibly of the Lakes. The oil painting was in poor condition when I bought it so I had it cleaned, restored and re-lined.

“The cleaning revealed a signature of Joseph Farington, and a date – 1787, which led me to finally identify the landscape from a published engraving of the painting and an early study in the Yale Center for British Art in the US.”

The painting, which has a price tag of £10,000, features the view of Ullswater from Pooley Bridge and was part of a prominent private collection in Virginia. According to the auctioneers, most of the pieces had been bought after World War Two and shipped to America.

Greg, of Artware Ltd, explained that the large panorama is particularly important not only for its size - 102cm x 127cm - but also as it appears to be the earliest known oil painting of Pooley Bridge. “Intriguingly, it also seems to be one of the very few oil paintings by Farington,” he said.

He explained that there are very few recordings of early paintings of Pooley Bridge. There is a watercolour by Joseph Powell (1772-1777) in The Duke of Northumberland’s collection and an undated watercolour by Thomas Sunderland (1744-1828) in the Abbott Hall Art Gallery in Kendal.

“We don’t know why Farington chose Pooley Bridge from his extensive collection of watercolours and drawings of the lakes, to be painted in oils and on such a large scale. However, it is a fitting and rather romantic notion to think that he chose the view of Ullswater from Pooley Bridge, as this was his most prized view of the Lakes,” said Greg, who is based in Devon and London.

Farington was an 18th-century English landscape painter and diarist, born in Leigh, Lancashire, in 1747.

Following in the footsteps of poet and writer Thomas Gray - who toured the English Lakes, as it was then known, in 1769 and recorded his ventures in a journal - Farington made his way to Cumberland.

He stayed for four years, between 1776 and 1780, and lived in Keswick, making numerous drawings of the captivating landscapes.

Farington joined the Royal Academy of Arts when it was founded in 1769 and was elected an Associate Member of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1783 and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1785.

His paintings can be found in many private and public collections and rarely appear in art sales.

Greg, whose wife Fiona is from Cumbria, started his career at Christies in London where he worked as a fine art specialist for eight years. He left in 1997 to start dealing in fine art and has been trading for 23 years.

“Any interesting facts that would make the picture more interesting, I would be delighted to hear from any readers,” added Greg. “Hopefully it will end up in a collection in the Lake District. It will be appreciated there more than elsewhere.”

Anyone with information can contact Greg on 07958 699645 or email greg@commissionaportrait.com.