Campaign to restore historic paintings

Guthrie and Ian with the two portraits.
Guthrie and Ian with the two portraits.

A Fife museum has launched a fundraising campaign to restore three paintings related to one of Cupar’s most famous sons – the artist Charles Lees.

Cupar Museum has acquired three paintings – two which feature Lees at different phases of his life, and one of his landscapes – however, they have been worn down and damaged over time.

The museum is now aiming to raise funds to restore the paintings, which have lost some details to dirt, and are marked by scratches and stains.

“We have still to meet with the conservation experts who will give us a ball-park figure,” explained treasurer Ian Copland. “That’s what we’ll aim to get to bring the paintings back to their former glory.”

Charles Lees was born in Cupar in 1800 and trained under the renowned artist Sir Henry Raeburn.

To supplement his income he became a private tutor. However, he fell in love with one of his students, Elizabeth Christie. Her father opposed their union so the couple eloped to Rome.

The first of the three paintings – the only one not by Lees – was a portrait of him by Robert Scott Lauder while he was in Rome.

The couple later returned to Edinburgh where Lees set up his studio in Scotland Street. He became a Royal Academician in 1830 and later the treasurer. In 1848, Lees painted his most famous work, The Golfers, a large painting showing a game of golf at the Old Course. The painting is currently out on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland.

Lees’ self-portrait shows him later in life, while the other painting is a landscape.

Cupar Museum acquired the three paintings from Roddy Greig, who had been researching the life of Lees.

Museum chair, Guthrie Hutton, said: “Roddy has done a terrific job. He has unearthed a lot about the guy nobody knew.

“In the process he discovered the last of the family had these paintings. They were unknown paintings. Roddy bought them in the hope someone would take them off his hands and preserve them for the town. That’s where we come in. In a curious sense, Lees is unknown. But we want to make him better known. In art terms, he must be one of the most famous sons of Cupar.”

The museum team are now planning on setting up an online fundraising page. Cash and cheque, under Cupar Heritage, are being accepted.

For more information about the museum, search for Cupar Museum and Heritage Centre on Facebook.