Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce.
Art show Fake or Fortune? returns to BBC1 on July 25 with presenters Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce. Image credit: Philip Mould & Company/ BBC.

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The show will be broadcast at 9pm on BBC One tonight (July 25) with art sleuth Philip Mould and presenter Fiona Bruce investigating the painter of an 18th century landscape.

Mould told ATG: “It’s good to be back. And this time at the grown-up time of 9pm - not that there is any increase in sex and violence - but the thrill of the chase remains high. We start by revisiting my past with the work of Gainsborough, a high-stakes artist who never ceases to surprise me.”

The landscape featured in this first episode has been owned by Mark Cropper’s family for generations. Cropper explains that until the 1970s it was considered to be a Gainsborough but then a valuation downgraded it to a Thomas Barker of Bath (1769-1847) – a mimic of Gainsborough.

Later the picture was downgraded yet again, from a Barker of Bath to a follower of Barker of Bath – something Mould describes as a “bin name”. Cropper said his father tore off the Gainsborough label in disgust.

Philip Mould and Fiona 2.jpg

In the first episode of the new series of Fake or Fortune? this pastoral scene once thought to be by Thomas Gainsborough is investigated by presenters Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould. Image credit: Philip Mould & Company/ BBC.

Mould is intrigued by this painting as it is a landscape he recognises. The picture looks like a famous print by Gainsborough, copied from one of his paintings, believed to be lost for many years. 

However, the story is complicated by the fact that in 1999 Mould helped authenticate a different picture as ‘the lost Gainsborough’. If Cropper’s picture turns out to be the lost Gainsborough, this could mean Mould and the experts who authenticated the original picture in 1999 were wrong. 

After extensive research by Mould, Bruce and the Fake or Fortune? team, a dossier of evidence is handed to Hugh Belsey, an expert who will determine whether he believes it to be by Gainsborough or Barker of Bath or another follower.

Later episodes in this new series will include a possible Sir Thomas Lawrence, a potential Giorgio de Chirico and the search to reveal the identity of the painter of a Venetian view.

For more on Fake or Fortune?, read ATG’s behind-the-scenes interview.