Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Rolling Stone Keith Richards' last artwork discovered in NZ

Owner thinks he 'stuffed it up' by signing it

Richards painted the pastel watercolour (inset) while recuperating at Auckland's Cotter House in 2006 after falling out of a tree in Fiji. Photo / Doug Sherring, NZPA
Richards painted the pastel watercolour (inset) while recuperating at Auckland's Cotter House in 2006 after falling out of a tree in Fiji. Photo / Doug Sherring, NZPA

A never-before-seen painting by Rolling Stones rocker Keith Richards has been stashed in a drawer in a swanky Auckland bed and breakfast for the past seven years.

The watercolour is expected to cause a stir internationally, with experts saying it could be worth several hundred thousand dollars.

The guitarist, who turns 70 this month, painted it while recuperating at Auckland's Cotter House in 2006 after falling out of a tree in Fiji.

He gave it to owner Gloria Poupard-Walbridge as a parting gift - but she has kept if off the walls at her five-star Remuera lodge because she says Richards' signature, penned in a thick black marker, has ruined the picture.

"It was pretty good picture until he signed it with a felt pen and stuffed it up," she said yesterday.

The gregarious hostess said it had been consigned to a drawer beneath some linen because she couldn't bring herself to frame it.

"I am surrounded by beautiful objects and I don't want to seem offensive but I have so much beautiful art I don't have enough room to hang other art that isn't worthy."

Poupard-Walbridge said she loved the tranquility of the painting and was now holding on to it for sentimental reasons.

Gloria Poupard-Walbridge hid it away as it was not 'worthy' of being framed up on the wall. Photo / Doug Sherring
Gloria Poupard-Walbridge hid it away as it was not 'worthy' of being framed up on the wall. Photo / Doug Sherring

Painted over several days on a $3.95 canvas and a small table easel, the delicate pastel and watercolour depicts a water scene at sunset, with a steamship at full throttle. Seagulls soar above the ship, the smoke effect created by careful artistic smudging.

Poupard-Walbridge said not many people were aware of Richards' talent as an artist. A chance conversation with an art student working as a gardener at Cotter House had spurred the rocker into sketching and painting. She said it reflected a time of healing and peace as he rested with his family during a three-week stay at the lodge.

He would often spend hours in the stately ballroom painting and strumming his acoustic guitar.

She said Richards was hurriedly signing photographs when he signed the painting with the same marker pen and handed it to her as a parting gift. She said she might consider auctioning it one day.

Webbs managing director Neil Campbell said the painting had the potential to attract big interest, especially from the large Rolling Stones fan base.

Keith Richards' pastel watercolour painting.
Keith Richards' pastel watercolour painting.

The painting was created at an interesting period in Richards' life, and works outside an iconic performer's traditional sphere of talent were often sought after.

In the past week, an A4 piece of paper with the original, handwritten lyrics to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run sold at auction for $280,000.

"It's cool to think his hand and mind created something so soft and thoughtful," said Campbell.

He said Webbs would be keen to market the work internationally.

The Rolling Stones will perform in Auckland next April and Poupard-Walbridge contacted the band's New Zealand promoters to offer them the lodge for their stay but was told accommodation had already been arranged.

"It is a pity Keith won't be coming back to stay with us because he and his family were such nice people," she said. "The neighbours liked them, too, and would call the lodge to say if there was any photographers lurking about, which meant his wife, Patti, could slip out and do some shopping or go to the hairdressers when the coast was clear.

"The Rolling Stones have a reputation of being rather wild but Keith was an absolute gentleman."

- Herald on Sunday

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