Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Which is Fake?

One of these drawings is "The Portrait of Henri Leroy"
by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot,
in the collection of the
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University

The other is a copy of same,
done by the notorious forger,
Eric Hebborn,
whose story has been recently told
by philosopher Denis Dutton
in his popular book, "The Art Instinct"

How can one tell the difference?

As Hebborn writes in his own book, "Drawn to Trouble",
"seek the hesitant line of the copyist,
as opposed to the strong, sure line of Corot"

The drawing in the Fogg collection
may be found reproduced in the book,
"Modern Prints and Drawings" by Paul J. Sachs.

Beneath which, Sachs has written:

"I illustrate his genius in black and white not by one of his romantic etched landscapes, but by this serious, moving pencil portrait, a drawing in which there is a complete absence of any calligraphic trick; a drawing which renders a mood miraculously... To appreciate this drawing there is no need to consult x-ray or any other modern scientific aids often used to bolster insensitive vision. However, with ultra-violet light... one can read an inscription on the reverse of the blue mount which enframes the drawing. The sentence not only identifies the little sitter but expresses the wish that the drawing remain in the family, never to be sold"

So, which one is fake?

Hebborn shows them side-by-side
in his book,
and eventually identifies
the top one as the original,
as you notice

"how poor my version is, how faulty the construction, how harsh the modeling, and all sorts of ghastly errors which escaped your notice before"

he also suggests that
you locate a copy of the Sachs book,
just to make sure.

Which I did.
(it's in the River Forest Library)

and lo and behold,
but the second drawing
is the one in the Fogg.

It's the first drawing,
the stronger one,
which is the fake.

that doesn't mean
that the other one is not a fake as well.

I would suspect that the owners of the original
kept their word about never selling it,
and sold a copy of it instead.

And when you look again at the first,
after looking at the rest of Hebborn's work,
you can see
how it expresses his rather vigorous
visual character
just like many of his other drawings.
(which I will show in the next post)

(note: another comparison of Fake/not-Fake
is shown here
regarding a "Piranesi" that has proven quite embarrassing
for a Danish art museum. But here, you may notice
that the Fake feels looser, less angular, and more whimsical than the original)


Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Dang. When I looked at an image from the Louvre ostensibly by Corot, based on the marks and handling I would have figured the top one was the original.

Things that make a person go "hhhmmm..."

November 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i canĀ“t say i like either one :)


November 27, 2009  
Blogger chris miller said...

Thanks for the image from the Louvre, Lori.

It's a very nice drawing, and though I can't verify that it's by Corot, it far less resembles a Hebborn.(it's not angular enough)

BTW, my wife,whose interest in art does not extend beyond loving her husband, picked the "Corot" from the Fogg, as she was somewhat put off by that very vigor in the Hebborn which I found more attractive.

Though the more I look at it, the less appealing it feels. Hebborn doesn't like children, and as he explains in his autobiography, he was an abused, mean, and nasty one.

November 27, 2009  
Blogger chris miller said...

One year later - drawn to this post by a comment posted by email --I have come to prefer the "weaker" drawing even more.

Not for the lines that describe the child's head -- but for what happens in the background.

Which is something I've been paying more attention to in my own drawing.

The lines in the Fogg drawing model a space. The lines in Hebborn's copy are just lines.

October 28, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting all the assumptions people make on what he may like or not like, read a couple of books and judge, did anyone notice that it's only a partial biography, did he just skip from decade to decade without a personal life?

January 25, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw , the first sculpture you show, is a portrait of edgar Alegre , stolen from his house after his death like most of the material that circulates

January 25, 2011  
Blogger chris miller said...

To which sculpture, and to whose biography, do you refer?

Your anonymous comments do not seem to relate to this post about the fake Corot.

January 25, 2011  

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