Friday, August 14, 2009

Henri Matisse

One of my college art classes was a studio course called Methods and Materials of the Artist. After an introduction to the various media, we were given the assignment of reproducing a work by a 20th Century master. The catch was that we must stick to a 9" x 12" format and use a medium other than the one used by the artist.

I chose to reproduce in gouache one of the many still-lives of Henri Matisse. After laboring for a long and frustrating week, I finished the piece just before the deadline. Not much more is known, except that I somehow passed the course. The still-life ended up in my portfolio and after graduation became a gift to my parents.

Placed in an antique frame, the piece held a place of honor in their home for years. One day, a visitor to my mother's antique shop stopped to admire her painting collection. Standing in front of my class project, she leaned in close to read the signature and her mouth fell open.

She slowly turned to my mother and with mounting excitement said, "I'm not positive, but I think you might have an Henri Matisse painting."

In that moment, my mom made the decision to have some fun and play along with her visitor. "Oh goodness, do you really think so?"

The lady did think so and nothing would do except for her to take the piece to a friend for authentication. Her friend turned out to be one of the curators at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.

My mischevious mom resisted the urge to halt the ruse and handed over the still-life. Weeks passed until one day the visitor called with promising news. The Ringling curator had thoroughly examined the piece and agreed it might indeed be a Matisse.

"The only way to know for sure," he said, "is to show it to Matisse's son Pierre in New York."

At that point, my mother thought it best to end the charade. She had the art returned and continued to enjoy her 'masterpiece' for many more years.


Mark Kerstetter said...

Didn't an art forger fool some experts a few years ago with some faked Frans Hals?

That story says a lot about talent, perception and the status of established artists.

I don't know if you remember me, but I exhibited my work in some of the same shows as you a few years back (please don't ask how long ago). I haven't exhibited for a while now, but have recently enjoyed playing in blogger-land. I've never forgotten your work and a search the other night brought up your blog. I'm happy to see that it is active - and you can write, my friend!

Arty said...

It says a lot about curators too. It should have been easy to spot that it was a modern piece. Really easy.