Town's Famed Painting Is Back, But Few Have Actually Seen It

posted by EESHA PENDHARKAR, Sun Chronicle - 

"Afghans" Credit The Sun Chronicle

"Afghans" Credit: The Sun Chronicle

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Many in town may have been longing for the return of its most famous painting, Alexandre Iacovleff's "Afghans," but so far only a handful of residents have taken time to visit the masterpiece.

"Afghans" was brought back after 11 years in storage and hung in the police station lobby last week."There's been about eight people today, and four yesterday," Officer Charles Nicholas said Friday.Nicholas was working on both days in the office of the police station lobby where the massive painting is in full view.

"The reception has not been as much as I expected, with such a history," he said.

More people may have stopped in over the weekend and the unbearable heat and humidity of the past week probably didn't help.But actually seeing it didn't matter as much to some as knowing it's back in town, for good.

"I'm glad it's on display again, and I plan to go see it," said Tom Smith, a resident familiar with the painting's history.State Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, R-North Attleborough, also said she planned to visit the police station to see "Afghans."

"I plan to go see it next week, and I'm delighted that after all these years it's back in town," she said."Afghans" spent more than a decade in storage at Sotheby's auction house. 

The town sent it there to be put up for auction, but the family who donated it to the town objected.The painting, donated to North Attleborough in 1951 by W. Charles Thompson, hung in the former high school - what is now the Community School - for decades before a local art connoisseur realized its value in 2007.The town decided to auction the painting, then valued at $2 million, and fund arts education for schools. 

When the donor's family found out, however, they objected, stating that they intended the painting to be viewed and appreciated by North Attleborough residents.

The dispute left "Afghans" languishing for 11 years before School Superintendent Scott Holcomb and the school department made arrangements to get it back. There is no ceremony planned to officially unveil the painting in its new home, Holcomb said. 

But getting it back in town was important, Poirier said."Now that we all know what an amazing piece of art it is, we can appreciate it more," she said.

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