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Painter dives into river to save fellow artist’s masterpiece

Water colour: John Behm takes the plunge to rescue the easel and painting PICTURE: SWNS

AN ARTIST has stripped to his underpants and dived from a bridge to save a fellow painter’s soggy masterpiece.

John Behm, 62, was competing in an open-air painting event in Norwich, Norfolk, when disaster struck yesterday.

The architectural designer was walking to Fye bridge after finishing his own work when he saw a competitor’s easel tumble into the water.

Throwing off his smock, the American plunged into the river Wensum to save the landscape.

Over the top: John strips off and climbs on the parapet

He said: ‘I peeked over the parapet of the bridge and saw the easel and painting. It was drifting down the river.

‘I shed my trousers, painter’s smock and all, put my glasses on my shoes, climbed on the wall and dived in.

‘I got to the easel, gave it my best life-saving grip and brought it up.’

Easel does it: John gets ready to leap into the river

As the dad-of-four hauled the sodden canvas onto the bank, a crowd that had gathered applaused.

John, from Tasburgh, Norfolk, said: ‘It came as a surprise to realise I was just in my sopping wet pants in front of all those people, but it was fun.’

He added: ‘They say artists are willing to suffer for their art. I did get a bit of a gash on my calf as I swung my leg over the parapet. So I suffered for my friend’s art.’

Sinking feeling: James Colman’s work floats away

The landscape belonged to James Colman, founder of Paint Out, an open-air art competition.

The event sees dozens of artists gather in towns and cities to complete works outdoors.

High and dry: Artwork gets rescued by John in his underpants

James denied rumours that he deliberately knocked the painting in the water because he was unhappy with it, adding: ‘It was an accident, honestly.’

What a relief: James Colman with his artwork

John said: ‘I made him promise to let it dry out and save it. I didn’t go to all that effort for him to throw it away.’