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

Jerry Schuster's Bag of Tricks

Art Fraud

Stealing Art

Object ID

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Schuster's presentation of a painting supposedly by California impressionist Guy Rose was more complex. Schuster listed the painting as by "Coy Rose," though the signature read "Guy Rose," an impressionist artist whose mature paintings sell for as much as $630,000, according to the fine art auctions database at Artnet.com.

The fake Guy Rose painting surrounded by real ones.

The fake Guy Rose painting
surrounded by real ones.

Texas resident James G. Baker noticed the listing on eBay. He is director of information services at College Architecture A & M University and teaches course in Texan artists. He grew up household full California impressionists and had once made a lucky score. He bought a group of 25 paintings for $20 at a roadside junkshop. Among the works was a magazine illustration by Rose that restored later sold $12,500.

When Baker came across the Schuster painting, he compared it to other Roses. While not as bright and airy as mature Rose works, it looked like it might have been a student work, dating to the time that Rose was studying in California, before living in France and studying the impressionists.

On the last day of the auction, and on the fence about whether to submit a final bid, Baker called Schuster. The auctioneer told him that he had misread the signature when cataloguing the painting. He said it wasn't signed "Coy Rose" but "Guy Rose." Baker pulled the trigger and submitted his last bid. He paid $9,830 for the painting.

After receiving it, he sent it to several historians and dealers. Each said it might be an early work by Guy Rose but weren't quite convinced. Baker began to feel increasingly uneasy about the painting.

In looking to document the painting's authenticity, Baker says, he "asked Schuster who had owned it. He gave me the name of someone who had died, and I looked him up on the Internet and there was a record of his death. Then I asked him for the names of the kids. He would never give me the information except to say there was a son who was a bandmaster at West Point. I called and there was no connection. He was giving me a run-around."

Baker ultimately sent it to a conservator who found that an area on the lower part of the painting had been repainted and the signature of Rose then added to make it appear that the signature blended in with the original paint.
Baker called Schuster repeatedly and asked for a refund, though he never got it.

This comparison could have saved one man thousands of dollars: the real signature is on top.
This comparison could have saved one man thousands of dollars: the real signature is on top.

This comparison could have saved
one man thousands of dollars:
the real signature is on top.

Both Beverland and Baker had suspicions at some point between the time they first saw the works listed on eBay and the time they first called Schuster. Beverland says, "everything was photographed under glass. That got me suspicious of them right off. I asked them why under glass and why they hadn't taken better photos of them. They were just blurry enough with the reflection on them so you couldn't really tell."
The Vonnoh painting that Beverland bought, if authentic, would have cost "a lot more money in a gallery," he says. "It would have been a lot more money. But that's the fun of eBay - try to find something and outwit somebody else."
Beverland was offering a painting he attributed to Pierre-Auguste Renoir on eBay for $7,000. If authentic, it would be worth over $100,000. The reason for the discount, the listing clearly explained, was because Beverland hadn't had the work authenticated by an expert.
Baker's first tip-off was the "Coy Rose" signature. "I frankly consider myself to have been fairly dim-witted to have fallen for this. I'm absolutely convinced that it was put up that way to give Jerry Schuster plausible deniability. And the signature was very close to Guy Rose's signature."
Baker describes himself as "a prime sucker" for crooks on the net "because I've never been able to afford things from a gallery. So I buy where the galleries buy. I've been wrong. I'm willing to take my knocks. But I'm not willing to do that with people like Schuster, who I believe are trying to defraud people."


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