Okay, so it’s not a $7 flea market Renoir — but it’s still pretty cool that a renovation project at Johns Hopkins led to the discovery of a lost oil painting by Eugene Leake that had been stashed in a janitor’s closet for who knows how long.
Leake, a former president of the Maryland Institute College of Art, was known for landscape paintings with an intense focus on place. The canvas in question, which dates from 1984, depicts a lush forest scene that should look familiar to anyone who’s spent an idyllic spring afternoon exploring the woods in Baltimore County; it’s entitled, appropriately, May Rocks and Trees.

According to Craig Hankin, a Leake specialist and current director of the Homewood Art Workshops, the painting’s time in the closet had not been kind to it:  “It had been savaged, basically. The canvas had been torn in a couple of places. Someone had driven nails through the backs of the stretchers, and the nails had punctured the canvas as well. Solvents and things had been spilled on it and it was really badly stained. I was a combination of horror-stricken and grief-stricken.”

The restoration job was turned over to Baltimore Museum of Art conservator Mary Sebera, who cleaned, patched, and restretched the painting. And, according to Hankin, she did a pretty fabulous job of it:  “My jaw dropped. To look at it today, you would never imagine that the painting had been so badly abused. It’s absolutely stunning,” he told the Johns Hopkins Magazine.

Want to judge for yourself? The painting currently hangs in the Ross Jones Building of the Mattin Center on Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus.