A painting that was stolen from a Glasgow museum over 30 years ago has been returned after it was entered into an auction. The BBC reports that the artwork, titled Children Wading, was painted by Robert Gemmell Hutchinson in 1918 and was gifted to the Glasgow Museum of Childhood in 1960.
In 1989, the painting was stolen in a heist and has remained lost until now. It was placed on the Art Loss Register alongside about 20 other artworks that were stolen at the same time. When the painting was put up for auction by the original owner, it was matched on the register and the owners have agreed to return it, despite having no legal obligation to do so.
The family who owned the painting bought it in good faith, with no way of knowing that it was stolen. They have the option of making a legal claim against the thief to recover the value of the painting, but this depends on whether they can be identified and whether issuing legal proceedings against them would be worthwhile.
The museum director Duncan Dornan said: “We’re delighted to have a work returned, even though the theft was a very long time ago. The pain of it still persists – and there’s a loss to the public in Glasgow. We were sorry to lose it and delighted to be able to recover the work subsequently, using the Art Loss system.”
He added: “It is a charming depiction of children at play, which is obviously why it had been deployed in the Museum of Childhood at the time.”
Hutchinson was born in Edinburgh in 1855, and specialised in painting un-romanticised scenes from rural and domestic life. He had a loose painterly style that was influenced by British Impressionism, and he also spent some time in Holland, where he developed a strong interest in the Hague School.
After his time in Holland, the artist worked mostly outdoors and used a looser and faster technique with a lighter palette. Much of his work features muted soft colours, sometimes augmented with a layer of more vibrant colour.
Throughout his career, he exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy in London and he was a member of many prestigious painting institutions. Many of his paintings are now held in private and public collections in the UK.
Mr Dornan told the BBC: “It’s very satisfying to see your work wrongly taken from a public collection returning to the collection. It is both good that the work returns to the people who want it, and makes it available for the public to enjoy. But it’s also really good that these systems in the art sector work effectively and actually result in a positive conclusion.”
Children Wading was painted at Carnoustie in Angus, a scenic seaside town in north east Scotland. It features two young girls paddling in shallow water with a toy boat nearby.