Wednesday 09th December 2015Pollock's Provenance
A group of paintings supposedly by the famed Abstract Expressionist artist Jackson Pollock are under close review by a team of experts after doubts were raised about the authenticity of the pieces. A whopping 30 paintings were being examined by UK-based Art Analysis & Research, an authentication firm that specializes in the forensic analysis of artwork. Of the larger group, 12 were found to use a paint pigment that wasn't commercially available before Pollock's untimely death in 1956.
The pigment in question, CI Pigment Yellow 74, could possibly have been used another way, but it creates an awkward situation for the Nevada gallery Classic Fine Art, which exhibited 6 of the paintings in question this past July at the Art Monaco fair. That wasn't the first time the works have been displayed, either - they have appeared variously at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas. Beyond the pigment problems, the provenance of the entire batch of 30 is thrown into question by a rather sketchy backstory filled with anonymous donors and suspiciously low prices.
The reports on the works in question by Art Analysis & Research are very specific: "The earliest forms of this class of pigment appeared on the commercial market in 1910 (PY1), with others following in the 1920s (such as PY4-6). However, the date of introduction of PY74 is commonly given in the literature as 1957. This consequently raises a number of issues."
They go on to suggest that more testing be done, and include the conjecture that it is possible that the manufacturers provided Pollock with a number of pigments before they were more generally commercially available, but it seems somewhat unlikely that this would have happened without any sort of record of the exchange taking place, either in Pollock's notes or correspondence, or the company's papers - surely it would have been quite a marketing coup to have a popular artist working with and testing new paint compositions.
Classic Fine Art leaves with a final word on the matter: “We will stand by the results, whatever they are.” Kudos to them for bearing up remarkably well under a bad situation, but here's hoping they haven't been duped. The world can always use more beautiful art, and unfortunately Pollock won't be making any more himself.
Posted on December 09th 2015 on 04:25pm
Wednesday 04th June 2014The Hidden Works
If you're a painter, you might have been here before: you're working on a canvas, nearly finished executing your vision, and suddenly you get frustrated and decide to scrap the project. Or maybe you've suddenly come up with a brilliant painting but you're all out of prepped canvases, and you need to start work immediately to preserve the clarity of your idea. Whatever the reason, the only way to get yourself a new working space is to paint over something you've already done. It's probably happened to you at least once in your artistic career, and if not, then you should consider yourself lucky! But what happens when you turn out to be one of the most famous painters of the previous century? Gallery and museums will bring out the forensic toolkit!
This is exactly what happened recently with one of the first well-known pieces by Pablo Picasso, the patron saint of Cubism, one of the most famous artists from the 20th century. One of his first pieces to be considered a masterpiece, the 1901 painting 'The Blue Room' signalled the beginning of his famous (to Picasso fans, at least) 'Blue Period', a 3 year stretch marked by a certain melancholia. Art experts had long been puzzled by some inconsistencies in the brush strokes found in the painting, strokes that didn't match what the surface painting appeared to show. As far back as 1954, one expert had noticed these discrepancies, but it wasn't until the mid 1990s that the art world got around to bringing in some sophisticated technology - the X-ray.
Not typically used on paintings, x-rays of 'The Blue Room' showed that there was indeed something painted beneath the surface, although x-rays weren't sufficient to provide a clear image of what, if anything, the underlying elements were. Thanks to recent advances in forensic technologies, however, experts have finally been able to get a glimpse of the painting Picasso didn't want to keep. An infrared camera has shown that the painting beneath The Blue Room is in fact a portrait of a man in a bow tie that appears nearly completed. No mention of his reasons for abandoning the portrait have been found, but one can only wonder what other famous artists may have chosen to discard before they realized that they were to become the pivotal artists of their age. It almost makes one start to conjure up visions of The Da Vinci Code, with secret messages hidden beneath renaissance masterworks!
Posted on June 04th 2014 on 02:57pm