The hunt is on for what may have been LS Lowry's last work - a rough sketch on the back of a menu.

The artist gave the picture of a dog - which could be worth thousands of pounds today - to a waitress at a Sunderland hotel, but it has never resurfaced.

Lowry, famous for his paintings of stick figures, visited the area at least twice a year until his death in 1976.

He was 88 when he drew the sketch on the menu, only 12 months before his death, having given up painting years before. And the search is now on to find the picture, described as a "fascinating footnote to his story" by Manchester's Lowry Museum.

The waitress who received the picture is thought to have been a student at the time.

Former head waiter at the Seaburn Hotel, Archie Laider said: "Mr Lowry would come to Sunderland two or three times a year, arriving by taxi from Manchester.

"We were chatting to him at the bar and he was talking to a young waitress.

"He drew a dog on the back of a menu, signed it and dated it, and handed it over to her. I'm not sure if she realised who he was."

Mr Laider added: "I always remember Mr Lowry as a lovely chap. He was very witty and fun to talk to.

"He had very specific requirements. He would never touch anything stronger than an orange juice.

"And for breakfast he would insist on a tomato juice, followed by bacon and eggs and then dry bread."

Alistair Robinson, assistant curator of the Lowry Museum described the story as "very exciting." He said: "I think there would be a lot of interest if this turned up because dogs were the trademark of Lowry's paintings. If you look, they feature very prominently.

"It is hard to say what the value of this would be. As a historical footnote to his life, it is fascinating,

"His paintings sell for thousands, and I imagine this would fetch a few thousand, assuming it has been kept in good condition.