FIVE ‘lost’ works from Cumbria’s greatest artist Sheila Fell have been uncovered and put on show by a Cockermouth gallery.

Aspatria-born Fell was regarded by LS Lowry as the greatest landscape artist of the age.

The works, unseen and even unknown for more than four decades, were acquired from a private collection in London.

Her work rarely strayed from the farms, fields and towns in her north-west corner of Cumbria.

Castlegate Gallery, in Cockermouth, has been a champion of Fell’s work and in 2014 staged the largest selling exhibition since her death in 1979.

“Much of Sheila's work could only be a product of someone raised in the western fringes of the county,” says gallery owner Steve Swallow.

“There are no ‘Lakeland’ scenes, often in her work the world is heavy and foreboding, a connection with not only the landscape but of her own state of mind.”

The exhibition, Sheila Fell – New Discoveries, from October 30 to November 20, combines the new acquisitions with six more from private collections to showcase 12 works from all three decades of Sheila’s career, in oils, charcoals and pastels.

“Five of our six recent acquisitions have been sourced from a private London collection and were generally unknown, not having been seen publicly on the market for 40-plus years, if at all.

“What’s fascinating is to see how Sheila progressed as an artist,” says Steve.

Born in Aspatria in 1931, Fell’s father was a miner. The family struggled to make ends meet in a small, terraced house in an unremarkable row of similar terraces.

In her teenage years though, Sheila showed an aptitude for art. After a brief spell at Carlisle College of Art, in 1950 Sheila gained a place at the prestigious St Martin’s School of Art in London.

Steve says: “One can only imagine what it must have been like for this diminutive young woman from the wilds of Cumberland to be suddenly mixing with other students and artists who were to become some of the biggest names in British art of the last century, including Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.

"From contemporary accounts she certainly seems to have held her own."

Over the next two decades Fell was to emerge as one of the most important and influential landscape artists at work in the UK.

For much of her adulthood, Fell was troubled. Her life remained firmly in the London of the 50s through to 70s. She missed her home county terribly (she largely only painted Cumberland), yet was only to return there for painting trips.

She also struck up a somewhat unlikely lasting friendship with L S Lowry, who acquired a number of her paintings. He was to later record that he believed Sheila was the greatest landscape artist of the age.

Fell died tragically young, aged 48. She had painted fewer than 600 works in her career.

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