A collection of paintings by a frustrated artist who died in obscurity are expected to fetch up to $30m at auction in New York.

Arthur Pinajian devoted his life to art but never won acclaim for his work. He spent years toiling away on canvases and relying upon his sister for financial support.

The pair lived together and dreamed that he would win fame, but it never happened. Pinajian grew more and more frustrated and eventually withdrew from the world to devote himself to painting.

One of Pinajian's final wishes when he died in 1999 at the age of 85 was for his art to thrown on the bonfire. But that was ignored as well.

Now a collection of his work, unearthed in a rundown cottage in Long Island, New York, could be about to net the owners a very large sum of money.

That is because, as with Vincent Van Gogh, Pinajian has found posthumous acclaim after enduring a lifetime of critical and public failure.

His paintings are hanging in New York galleries and commanding prices of $87,000 each. A total of 3,000 images, including abstract expressionist paintings, World War II sketches and illustrations represent a huge haul.

Abstract canvas by Arthur Inajian

They were purchased by Thomas Schultz and his friend Larry Joseph when he bought a dilapidated bungalow in the hope of renovating it. When they realised what the house contained they upped their offer price - by $2,500.

Pinajian's cousin, John Aramian, said: "He thought he was going to be the next Picasso. He believed he would become famous and this would all pay off one day but it just never happened.

"So he became frustrated and withdrew from everything and just painted."

Landscape by Arthur Inajian
Landscape by Arthur Pinajian

Pinajian was praised for his dogged devotion to his muse by American art historian William Innes Homer, who died last year.

"Lone researcher in a laboratory pursuing knowledge for its own sake," he said.

"He pursued his goals in isolation with the single-minded focus of a Gauguin or Cézanne, refusing to give up in the face of public indifference.

"He was passionate and unequivocally committed. Ultimately, Pinajian's work reflects the soul of a flawed, yet brilliant, artistic genius. When he hits the mark, especially in his abstractions, he can be ranked among the best artists of his era."