A piece of history with a bit of mystery at Cowra Regional Art Gallery

Inspector Adam Beard from Cowra Police looks at Woman with Satyr by renowned Australian artist, Norman Lindsay.

Inspector Adam Beard from Cowra Police looks at Woman with Satyr by renowned Australian artist, Norman Lindsay.

A rarely seen oil painting by legendary Australian artist Norman Lindsay recently went on display at the Cowra Regional Art Gallery, but who it belongs to is a mystery.

The painting Woman with Satyr is on loan to the Cowra Regional Art Gallery by the NSW Police as part of an ongoing tour to regional galleries.

Lindsay, perhaps best known for his work The Magic Pudding, was considered a controversial artist and author in his time.

Cowra Regional Art Gallery Director, Brian Langer, said it was a rare opportunity for the community to see the work of one of Australia's leading 20th century artists in Cowra.

"It's good for the community to see but also engage with an early 20th century painter, which we don't get the opportunity to show very often," Mr Langer said.

"His oil paintings play an important part in terms of the style and genre... His work always has a dramatic element within it... He was very inventive and very talented."

The painting was rediscovered in storage at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2010 and documents with it indicated NSW Police had lent the painting to the State Gallery in 1980.

The painting came into the possession of the NSW police during the course of a criminal investigation.

"Before it went to the Art Gallery of NSW, no one really knew where it was stored or how it was stored," Mr Langer said.

In 2010, NSW Police launched Operation Matisse to try and locate the owner of the artwork.

During the operation, police established the piece once belonged to a prominent art collecting family from Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, but that's where the trail ran cold.

The work was previously on display in Goulburn and Dubbo before being loaned to Cowra.

While it may be a long shot, Mr Langer said it would be fantastic if someone in Cowra knew of a connection to the work.

"The intriguing story behind the work adds another layer to the painting," he said.

It will be on display at the gallery until July 21.