Mural Worth $100,000 Uncovered in Barn

The William Cumming mural. Photo: Scott Terrell/ AP Photo

It’s the kind of story that makes us want to rip apart every corner of our attics and basements just in case there’s something special hiding out in there. In the case of this Washington state family who discovered a work by Northwest School painter William Cumming folded up in their barn, the item in question is more than just something special—it’s an artwork valued at about $100,000.

According to ABC7 Denver, the 28-by-7 foot canvas mural ended up with Tony Breckenridge was uncovered 10 years ago in a family-owned barn when Breckenridge unfolded it, believing it to be a tarp. But he assumed it was from a junior livestock show and stored it in his basement for the past decade. A search to identify the work’s author was only touched off when he at last decided to phone the county fair organizer to request that the mural be displayed.

Local gallery owner John Braseth authenticated the piece as a William Cumming original. “I know his signature better than I know my own,” he said, referring to the close friendship he shared with the late artist, who was associated with the Northwest School of painting.

The mural is valued at $100,000, but it cost an estimated $20,000 to restore. Investigations into the mysterious origins of the work remain underway. According to Braseth, the mural may have been commissioned by the federal Works Progress Administration, which could affect whether or not the mural is fully restored, as well as how and where it is displayed.

In the meantime, the Breckenridge family is undoubtedly pleased that they finally decided to investigate the mysterious piece of canvas after all these years. “Between me and my brothers, we tried everything in the world to throw it out. Now that we know what it is, I guess it’s lucky we didn’t,” said Tony Breckenridge.


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