Hidden Treasure

Friday, March 9, 2012 - 11:27am

Masterpiece worth $10,000 found hanging in Detroit school.

The Detroit Institute of Art’s newest addition is all thanks to a former student at a Warren school.

In 1954, the graduating class at Fitzgerald High School in Warren bought a painting to give to the school district as a customary gift.

The painting was titled “Two Figures and Landscape,” by artist Hughie Lee-Smith.

It cost $150.

It had been hanging in a break room at the school for decades, unrecognized as a work by a famous artist.

When a former art teacher came across an article about Lee-Smith, it jogged his memory of the painting.

He contacted Fitzgerald Public Schools Superintendent Barbara van Sweden to let her know the high school had a treasure in its midst.

"I had heard that someone had even thought about throwing it away,” Van Sweden said. “But one of the custodians had rescued it and said, ‘Let’s just hang it here.’”

The painting is now estimated to be worth $10,000.

The painting is now on loan to the Detroit Institute of Art by the Fitzgerald Public Schools district.

“I think it was in pretty good condition, basically, when it came here,” said DIA Director Graham Beal.

The painting is hanging among five other works by Lee-Smith, including a self-portrait.

Beal explained that the two figures painting is different than the others.

“It’s actually a little bit more impressionistic. The other works are a bit more detailed,” he said.

So, will the painting stay at the DIA? Or return to the school?

“We haven’t made that decision at this time,” Van Sweden said.

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