A RARELY displayed painting with a tragic history is expected to reach up to £150,000 at auction.

Robert Brough, the artist behind Sweet Violets, died from severe burns in a train crash aged 32, just eight years after creating what critics consider his masterpiece.

The oil portrait by the Aberdonian artist, featuring Barbara Staples aged 18 holding a jar of violets, has only been displayed publicly once before, in 1995 at the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

A private collector bought the piece after that exhibition, joining a history of owners including the Staples family and famous surgeon Sir Alexander Ogston.

The National:

The auction will be held online by Lyon and Turnbull on Thursday, June 8.

Nick Curnow, Lyon and Turnbull vice-chairman, said: “Brough was young, ambitious, precociously talented and on an impressive career trajectory when he met with a premature death.”

Born to a single mother, lady’s maid to the Duchess of Hamilton, Brough was raised in rural Aberdeen before establishing himself as a favourite of London’s most notable families.

It was a train journey back to London from Scotland in 1905 that hospitalised the young artist, leading to his death two days later in Sheffield.

Part of the late 19th-century movement, he trained in Paris alongside Scottish colourist SJ Peploe and was mentored by leading American artist John Singer Sargent.

Sargent was his mentor and influence, but also a close friend, and sat with Brough’s mother at his bedside.

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Cunrow said: “It was his untimely ending that prevented him from being fully admitted into the canon of great painters in the history of Scottish art. His obituary recorded that he combined ‘the dash of Sargent and the beautiful refinement of Velazquez'.”

He continued: “Given his short lifespan, Brough wasn’t as prolific as he could have been which means it’s rare to come across one of these paintings on sale.”

From 10am, bidders from across the world are expected to battle in the online auction for this rare piece of Scottish art history.