The price of everything . . .
There is a TV show here in the U.K. called ‘Fake or Fortune’. Art experts are presented with a painting that has mouldered in an attic for years and are asked to decide whether it is a ‘genuine’ Cezanne or Titian or Gainsborough or what not, or a ‘fake’. I’ve used the inverted commas here advisedly. The final hoped-for scene shows the tearful owner being told that, yes, it is genuine, and they are now a millionaire. Here are the rather smug-looking experts and presenter working towards creating that happy ending.
recent episode, however, did not go to plan. A painting declared to be a
‘genuine’ (that word again) work by Constable has proved to be no
such thing. To the unconfined joy of many of us, the presenters now have
considerable quantities of egg on their faces.
Sadly for them, the
‘experts’ that proved them wrong were not authorities on great art,
but yachtsmen. They pointed out that the type of yacht seen in the
picture was not introduced until the 1930s. Dan
Houston, editor of Classic Boat magazine, made this very sensible
“I don’t think that
Constable was blessed with exceptional foresight. It seemed as if the
BBC was intent on proving this was a Constable, regardless of the
facts,” he said.
The programme does reflect a
number of regrettable aspects of the contemporary view of art; in
particular, that it’s all about money and celebrity. Of all the areas
of great art than can be studied – content, style, historical context
– the one that wins every time is attribution, and it’s the aspect
that least interests me. For the most part, I’m not that bothered
about who painted what – it’s what’s in the picture that is the
most interesting aspect.
use the same license as poets and madmen . . . .. I paint my pictures
with all the considerations which are natural to my intelligence, and
according as my intelligence understands them.'
A few years ago I had a
conversation with a fine arts lecturer, who had done his training in Florence and was passionate about Renaissance painting. He had just been
told that all his fine arts courses were to be dropped except one.
A qualification to enable
students to work in the auctioneering of art.
. . the value of nothing.