Dr. Stebbins did not say anything about the signature.
(PRWEB) February 21, 2012
The Harvard University Fogg Museum has been asked to intervene in the authentication of a rare Martin Johnson Heade Masterpiece. MJ Heade has been recognized as one of the great American romantic artists. During a career spanning 70 years, the artist produced a varied body of work that reflects landscapes and floral still life of the 19th century. The piece in question is in the possession of Army Senior Sergeant Retired, Victor Hazon Hall, who has spent several years researching and seeking confirmation and authentication of the painting.
Ted Stebbins, Jr., a well-known authority on the works of MJ Heade and curator of American Art at the Harvard University Fogg Museum has authenticated several MJ Heade works, most recently a piece, discovered during a PBS "Find!" episode, which depicts a southern river at sunset, but they could not be sure of location as the work was very dirty. This piece was auctioned by McInnis Auctioneers for a signicficant amount of money.
The piece in question, a work discovered by Army Senior Sergeant Retired, Victor Hall, was submitted to Ted Stebbins, Jr., for authentication. After submitting photos and research to Mr. Stebbins, the response was that Mr. Stebbins did not believe that the work was by MJ Heade. In addition, he gave general comments disputing authenticity based on scientific data. Mr. Hall stated, "I am in disbelief as here was an acknowledged 19th century work that is extremely beautiful and signed on back top stretcher which is typical of Heade. The signature has aged with the stretcher and one can clearly see the lead that has stretched with the wood, as any novice would have known that the signature was original to the wood." He further stated, "I did not, at that time, know a lot about American or European art, but my research had informed me that this was an American work on an American canvas held by American support and that the tabbing that held the painting to the support was consistent with a known technique used by Boston-based painters and Martin Johnson Heade in the mid to late 19th century. So, the opinion that I received stating this may be a European work was way off the mark!"
A great deal of controversy has erupted over the piece in question with a prominent conservator asserting that while the painting was not produced by MJ Heade, Mr. Heade was present when the painting was done. Hall said "I am confused. So, Heade was there when this work was painted, but did not paint the work"? How do you know Martin Johnson Heade was there when this work was painted?" asked Hall. The conservator then replied,” the white flowers look like him” and then he went on to say, "I am saying that Heade was there when this work was painted and painted on the canvas, but did not paint the painting. Hall asked, "Why didn't Heade paint the entire painting?"
The conservator indicated that Mr. Stebbins would be coming to his home and would view the painting that day. "He told me that Ted was coming to his home to see the work and let's just see what Ted has to say, as he does not authenticate paintings." However, Mr. Hall indicated that the position of Mr. Stebbins was that Martin Johnson Heade was present when this painting was painted and did paint on the canvas. Dr. Stebbins did not say anything about the signature.”
Mr. Hall later emailed Dr. Stebbins and asked if he saw the painting at the conservator's house. Dr. Stebbins informed Mr. Hall that he saw the painting at the conservator's house and that the painting in his opinion was not that of Martin Johnson Heade. He said that it was apparent that this was a late 19th century work and asked questions as to the birds being sparrows. He also pointed out painting techniques and methods that did not appear to be Heade’s.
The controversy continues as Mr. Hall has received opinions of several art historians who disagree with Dr. Stebbin's assessment. In addition, Dr. Stebbins authenticated another Heade painting, based on signature, on an episode of "Find!" shown on PBS. Mr. Hall has stated, "I have a scientific analysis from the Atlanta Art Conservation Center that shows that this work is consistent with how Martin Johnson Heade painted, compared to the known methods and materials of Heade. The report documents Heade's signature. The most important part of the research to support authenticity is the historical, non-ambiguous, vivid documentation that supports this work. This documentation indicates that this may be the most important work of art contributed to American Natural History." Mr. Hall further stated, "I am asking the Harvard University Fogg Museum director and board of directors to intervene in this matter of urgency to get this most important work authenticated so that it will make its way to the halls of American Art and justice. If the Fogg does not want to intervene to save this work then I am hoping that the National Gallery of London will intervene and contact me so that they can conduct forensics on the work and possibly go on loan there."
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