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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fakes can be more interesting than the real thing

I love Lindauer paintings of Maori chiefs.  Not only are they realistic, but they bring history to life.

The Alexander Turnbull Library does, too.  Unfortunately, however, they bought a fake one.

Here is the news release from

The Alexander Turnbull Library has admitted it paid $75,000 of public money for a forged Lindauer portrait.

The national heritage collector, based in Wellington, bought the painting in 2013, despite being warned by an expert before the purchase that is was likely to be a forgery.

It bought the portrait of Hoani or Hamiora Maioha, signed G. Lindauer, at auction.
Gottfried Lindauer (1839-1926) painted hundreds of portraits of leading Maori figures, many of which are in public collections.

Before making the purchase, the library got the advice of colonial art expert Roger Blackley, of Victoria University, who told them it looked likely to be a fake. However, it went with the advice of its own experts, and went ahead with the purchase.

On Monday, chief librarian Chris Szekely admitted the library and its in-house experts had made a mistake.

"After having the painting forensically examined, the painting is not what we believed it was," he said.


So, how did they learn the awful truth?

It all comes down to science and an author who knows her stuff.  According to another report, from TV3:

The forgery was confirmed when Auckland Art gallery conservator Sarah Hillary inspected it this year as part of preparations for a book on Lindauer.

She found the painting contained titanium dioxide, which was not available when Lindauer was painting, and that the brushwork was rough compared with Lindauer's careful strokes.

H'mm.  But is all lost?  Can the fake be more interesting than the real thing?  Who painted this rather charming portrait of a handsome young chief?

New Zealand's most famous forger was a man by the name of Karl Sim, who died in 2013. He had copied 62 artists including, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Lindauer and Goldie.

 Here he is.  Isn't he lovely?

When he died exactly two years ago (24 October 2013) at the age of 89, his sister found a list of paintings he might have forged inside a dictionary of artists' signatures.

Born and raised in the Manawatu, he became notorious in the mid-1980s when, known as Karl Sim, he was brought to court for forging the works of C F Goldie and Petrus van der Velden.

He was convicted on 40 counts, fined $1000, and ordered to paint the Foxton Town Hall and public toilets as part of 200 hours' community service.

Sim then changed his name to Carl Feodor Goldie so he could legally sign his Goldie works.

But did he paint the Lindauer in question?  Maybe the experts will let us know. 

And, when they do, they could hang it back on the wall, with a really interesting label underneath.

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