JUST who is that woman with the Aborigines? Is that really Robert Stephenson pensively clutching his top hat in the middle of a Constable-esque landscape? What’s the deal with the almost hallucinogenic clutch of colourful poodles?

These are just some of the questions experts hope visitors to a new exhibition of little seen artworks will ask - and may be able to answer.

The eclectic selection of paintings has been unearthed and dragged from the depths of a historic art collection in a bid to unlock mysteries and stories lost in the mists of time.

More than 40 curious pieces of art give tantalising glimpses into the past, insights into the lives and times of people who once caught the eye of a keen artist.

A painting attributed to William Hogarth nestles alongside ‘Poodlemania’, a 1966 piece by the Alderson twins who would paint together, one working from the right and one from the left.

In Tony Peart’s Fear of the Unknown a windswept woman clutches a man to her bosom in an alleyway while nearby, Irish Peasants clutch hens protectively.

In each case, there’s a piece of the jigsaw missing, with mystery surrounding artist, subject or setting.

Curator Norma Kyle is hoping visitors will shed light on the stories behind the paintings, which form part of the Darlington Borough Collection, built up over hundreds of years from artworks donated to the town.

She said: “Almost everything in the collection is connected with Darlington but the stories have become lost and we’re trying to get them back.

“There are questions about all of them – whether it’s wondering if Noble’s Woman with Aborigines meant he travelled to Australia or trying to find out where the house is in the background of the painting we think is of Robert Stephenson.

“Where we don’t know who the artist is, it’s quite often because they were women or an artist just starting out.

“It’s important for the people of the town to be able to see these works because many of them have never been displayed before and we want to reinstate these stories in collective memory.”

Any stories revealed throughout the exhibition will be compiled and submitted to the library’s Centre for Local History.

Objects of Curiosity runs at the Crown Street Library until Thursday, September 4.