Feature: Beware of the Art Fraudsters Tricks Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Chatelaine's Antiques and Appraisals Magazine > Market Notes > Feature: Beware of the Art Fraudsters Tricks

Art Fraud

Stealing Art

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This "Guy Pene du Bois" painting was actually done by an artist named A. Weill.

The man and woman barred by eBay and enjoined from selling art by the New York Attorney General pulled off their cons through a handful of surprisingly simple means. And they succeeded, to some extent, through the willing suspension of disbelief of the buyers.

According to a document filed by the N.Y. Assistant Attorney General, Jerry and Jill Schuster, who run The Antique & Design Center in Windsor New York, used eBay to sell dozens of paintings by anonymous or little known artists during 1998 and 1999. Many of the paintings were decades old and had the comforting air of age, and the Schusters claimed they were authentic works by known American artists. The AG asserts that the Schusters not only knew that the works were inauthentic but that the paintings bore forged signatures.

In one case, that of a purported Ernest L. Blumenschein landscape, the false signature was put on the paintings backwards, though the signature was not illustrated in the posting on eBay.

A painting supposedly by American artist Guy Pene du Bois bore a fake signature on the painting's lower left. On the lower right was the faint signature of the original artist, the unknown A. Weill. That signature was clear to the Schusters, who handled the painting, but not visible to the eBay purchaser.

Joseph Sharon was one of Schuster buyers, though he came out of the experience whole. It took him two months to get a refund for a supposed Martha Walter painting entitled Picnic for which he paid about $5,000.

But Sharon has had other bad experiences buying on eBay. He once bought a "Rockwell" painting that wasn't by Norman Rockwell. When he asked for his money back, the seller said it was by Douglas Rockwell.

In another instance he bought a Jean Baptiste Camille Corot but found that the signature was forged and the painting a fake. He called the gallery and demanded his money back. The gallery worker in turn called her local police department and said he was harassing her!

Jerald Beverland, of Florida, got no money back from Schuster for small paintings supposedly by Robert Vonnoh ($715), Henry Harpignies (signed "G SUSS," $850 plus shipping), or on a Walt Kuhn "watercolor" that turned out to be a print.

How did he know the paintings were fakes? Beverland says, "when I put a black light on them the signatures just jump up and run out the back door."



Introduction to Object ID: Guidelines for Making Records That Describe Art, Antiques, and Antiquities
by Robin Thornes

The Art Forger's Handbook
by Eric Hebborn

The Commissar Vanishes : The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia
by David King

The Fake
by Sandor Radnoti

Detecting Forgery: Forensic Investigation of Documents
by Joe Nickell

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