A Canadian masterpiece that sat unseen in a rural Alberta house for years could be one of the largest sales ever at a Calgary auction house.

The painting by Tom Thomson, a member of the famed Group of Seven, was brought to Calgary in December by the unidentified owner — an elderly woman in rural Alberta — covered by a towel on a Greyhound bus, said Doug Levis of Levis Auctions Appraisal and Art Storage.

Levis said even with a struggling market for art resale, the classic 1915 oil painting, dubbed Dawn on Round Lake, is expected to go for as much as $600,000, which would make it the second priciest in the history of his auction house.

“This is a painting that’s been unseen for the last 90 years — exactly why she’s selling it now I’m not sure but it’s very exciting,” he said. “It’s not common that an unseen Tom Thomson shows up on the market — there’s not a lot of these out there.”

Levis said any Thomson work is a compelling purchase because so few were painted before the artist died at 40 years of age.

Last year a similarly sized painting by the same artist sold for $1.7 million but Levis admitted the art market has suffered in the lagging economy.

The painting will be on the auction block with 330 other paintings at an April 19 auction starting at 1 p.m. at the Nickle Arts Museum on the University of Calgary campus.

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