Tom Thomson art exhibition shines spotlight on issues of authenticity

by AryanArtnews
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“Tom Thomson? The Art of Authentication, which opened in September, is centered around five authentication factors: signature, style, subject matter, material, and source.Robert McNair / AGH

Currently, nearly 40 works are on display at the Tom Thomson exhibition at the Hamilton Art Gallery. Two in particular are the stars of the show, or at least the reason for their existence. These two works may or may not have been drawn by Thomson.

“Tom Thomson? Visiting Kingston in February,” Art of Authentication “is a thoughtful show that doesn’t offer a definitive” yes “or” no. ” As a result of coincidence, collaboration and creativity, the exhibition came together. And that’s a lot more than Thomson himself.

“We’re just actually using him,” says Tobi Bruce, director and senior curator of AGH’s exhibitions and collections. “A nice by-product is that you can also see this wonderful collection of Thomson.”

In his short career as a painter before his mysterious death in 1917, Thomson created hundreds of oil sketches. And, as the show’s catalog notes, he is one of the most forged Canadian artists.

People working in Canadian historical arts are often asked the following questions: I bought this painting at a flea market and I have a reason to believe it is Tom Thomson. Can you see it?

Tom Thomson Rag Drake, 1915 Oil on Wood 21.2. × 26.2cm Hamilton Art Gallery GY Gift from Mrs. Douglas, 1963Hamilton Art Gallery

However, when Bruce received this particular inquiry from a Mississauga man in 2014, he received support from a prominent art restorer, June Bramor, who worked at AGH. Bramall discovered the “TT” signature when cleaning his work.

The man caught his eye at the Freelton Antique Mall north of Hamilton, so he bought the piece for about $ 100. There were some suggestions that it might be Thomson, but it wasn’t enough for him to take it seriously. It was so dirty that I sat in a drawer in the guest bedroom of his little house for about two years before he pulled it out and brought it to his friend Bramall.He says after she works For several months, Bramor told him he thought the work was correct – the term used in certification. (Globe and Mail does not identify men who are worried about being named because of the potential value of the painting.)

Bramor, who died in 2018, helped to contact Bruce.

“We are not certified as an institutional curator,” Bruce says. But she was intrigued. Shortly thereafter, she mentioned it while working on a project with Alicia Butillier, Chief Curator / Curator of Canadian Historical Arts, at the Agnes Ezarington Art Center at Queen’s University in Kingston.

“And I said it was very strange. Just six months ago, I was in a similar situation,” says Bootillier. The paintings brought to her were found in an antique shop in southwestern Ontario around 1985. (The owner of the painting refused to talk to Globe.)

Thom Thomson First Snow, 1916 Oil on Composite Wood Pulp Board 21.5 x 26.7 cm Agnes Ezarington Art Center, Queen’s University, Kingston Queen’s University Art Foundation Gift, 1941Agnes Ezarington Art Center

At about the same time, news articles got a lot of attention. The Vancouver Art Gallery is said to have acquired 10 works by JEH McDonald, a member of the Group of Seven, who had been buried in a former property in northern Toronto for over 40 years. However, as reported by The Globe and Mail, questions were asked about the work.

In response, Montreal-based galler and Canadian historical arts expert Alan Krinkhof set up one or more sketches alongside known McDonald’s sketches and invited a panel of experts. Suggested to evaluate them.

Light Bulbs Extinguished: Bruce and Bootillier devised an exhibition on certification around the two sketches in question.

Hamilton’s sketch represents a dock with a boathouse and a canoe floating on the lake. Kingston’s sketches depict trees in the snow, focusing on the trunk.

Opened in September, the exhibition revolves around five verification elements: signature, style, subject matter, material, and source.

Tom Thomson Birch Gloves, Fall 1915-16, Oil on Canvas 101.6 × 116.8 cm Hamilton Art Gallery Roy G. Cole’s Gift, Parents, Matthew and Annie Belle Gilmour Cole, To commemorate 1967Hamilton Art Gallery

The show begins with a gallery of six works hung on the wall. One is a known fake. Viewers are asked to determine which one it is. This is the section dealing with signatures – one of the first things professionals look at when trying to authenticate. However, Thomson rarely signed his work. Even when he did, the signature changed during his career. His early signatures were larger, cursive, and “much more declarative,” the catalog states.

The Materials section explores the important role of scientific analysis. A technique that allows an expert to check for paints that the artist knows to have used, or materials that were not available to the artist.

In style, one of the pieces in question is hung on a known Thomson. The label on the wall is stored far away so that the viewer can reassess it. Please consider brush strokes and colors.

Deviations from the artist’s known work can be a danger signal, but they are always anomalous. “As Alicia says, we always have to accept the fact that artists don’t always work in the box,” Bruce says. “It may have been what they were trying.”

The show also considers what is actually in the photo. Is it a place known for having an artist? Does it match a known work? But just because Thomson didn’t paint the building often doesn’t mean he’s never painted it. “The subject can be a slippery exercise,” says Boutilier during a virtual tour of the exhibition.

Tom Thomson, Burnt Country c. 1915 Oil on composite wood pulp board 21.4 x 26.5 cm Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound Club Owen Sound Gifts and Owen Sound Women’s Arts Association, 1967Tom thomson art gallery

Finally, the show focuses on the history of painting ownership. Here, detective works often focus on what is written or engraved on the back of the work, as well as supporting documents.

The show ends with two known fakes that were part of a proceeding that attracted attention in the 1960s.

After all, viewers often have opinions. “People are quite divided,” says Bruce. Some say that there is no way that one or both of the paintings are not Thomson. Others are convinced they are not right. Visitors seem to like the exercises, which give them the opportunity to become judges, even if they are not happy with the definitive answer.

Co-curators don’t say what they think. “My own quiet opinion changes,” says Boutilier.

“We are not Thomson specialists,” Bruce adds. “For us, the real purpose of this is to foreground all the behind-the-scenes work that curators, historians, dealers, and conservator-restors do when trying to certify something, where the project is really successful. And I think the general public is very fascinated by it. “

Official certification of Thomson is very difficult. Few experts are willing to do that at this time. Basically, the only opportunity to certify your work is to sell it at an auction. This is because the auction house may still do the work and take responsibility for it.

Tom Thomson Woods in winter, c. 1917 Oil on Tree 14.5 × 20cm Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound Gift of Louise (Thomson) Henry, Tom Thomson’s Sister, 1967Tom thomson art gallery

Joan Murray, a Thomson expert who wrote the catalog raisonné (listing all known genuine works of a particular artist), retired from an active survey of undisclosed Thomson works in 2016. It will not be added to the list.

There are proposals to publish certain addendums, registration of uncertified works and ancillary research material. Approval does not mean certification, but it is a way to track possible Thomson and supporting research materials in the central registry.

“As Joan Murray himself predicted, more work by Tom Thomson will be published in the next 100 years,” said the book, a registry created by expert Angie Littlefield: Read the proposal. Tom Thomson’s Friend’s Great Kettle: Biography, History, Art, and Food.. “The art history and research community needs to be on the ground floor to collect valuable material that results from such discoveries.”

Both of the core works of this exhibition are candidates.

The show will end in Hamilton on January 2nd and will open in Agnes on February 26th. The painting is then returned to the owner. The Mississauga man will take it home and hang it on the wall.

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