Friday, March 30, 2012

Jane Sutherland’s -REPRODUCTIONS- of non-disclosed posthumous Degas forgeries and Gauthier’s 1919 photographs at the Portland Museum of Art

The Portland Museum of Art's February 23, 2012 to May 28, 2012  Edgar Degas, The Private Impressionist Works on Paper by the Artist and his Circle from the Collection of Robert Flynn Johnson traveling exhibition has a sister exhibition that is represented as: "Paintings and drawings by Jane Sutherland, a contemporary New England artist greatly inspired by Degas."[FN 1] that are, in majority, -inspired- by non-disclosed posthumous Degas forgeries, slavishly reproduced museum photographs of non-disclosed posthumous Degas forgeries and the photographer Gauthier's 1919 photographs.

Yet, the artist Jane Sutherland states she: "created this series of drawings and paintings as a visual exploration of one of the most compelling figures in the history of art: Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.”[FN 1]  

Edgar Degas [d 1917] was history alright when his Little Dancer Aged Fourteen mixed-media sculpture was posthumously [after 1919] reconstructed and altered by the Hebrard founder and foundry workers, reproduced in wax and plaster with their fingers and fingerprints for casting in brass that was subsequently used as a modele ie., master for casting surmoulages [brass from brass]  with counterfeit Degas signatures inscribed onto the new wooden bases.

Hebrard founder and foundry workers had no shame.

So, with the only one possible exception of Edgar Degas’ mixed-media sculpture titled Little Dancer Aged Fourteen in the National Gallery of Art’s collection, the artist Jane Sutherland has never been in the presence of any authentic Little Dancer Aged Fourteen plaster or brass [not bronze] attributable to Edgar Degas, much less seen a photograph of one.

This monograph documents these contentious issues of authenticity.

Edgar Degas never cast his sculptures in bronze, much less in brass.

Here are just five references that confirm this and other devastating facts surrounding these non-disclosed posthumous brass forgeries:

On page 95 of the College Art Association’s published spring 1995 “art journal,” in a Degas Bronzes? article by Roger J. Crum, the author wrote: “In Wilken’s essay we read that in 1921 Francois Thiebault-Sisson recalled that Degas had once said: I modeled animals and people in wax for my own satisfaction, not to take to rest from painting or drawing, but to give more expression, more spirit, and more life to my paintings and drawings. They are exercises to get me started. My sculptures will never give that impression of completion that is the ultimate goal of the statue-maker’s trade and since, after all, no one will ever see these efforts, no one should think of speaking about them, not even you. After my death all that will fall apart by itself, and that will be better for my reputation. (p. 23).”[FN 3]

On page 180 in the National Gallery of Art’s published 1998 Degas at the Races catalogue,  in Daphne S. Barbour’s and Shelly G. Sturman’s “The Horse in Wax and Bronze” essay, these authors wrote: “Degas never cast his sculpture in bronze, claiming that it was a “tremendous responsibility to leave anything behind in bronze -- the medium is for eternity.”[FN 4]

On page 78 of the “Degas; The Sculptures” essay by Hirshhorn Curator of Sculpture Valerie J. Fletcher, published in Ann Dumas and David A. Brenneman’s 2001 Degas and America The Early Collectors catalogue, the author wrote: “In 1919-20 Hebrard’s founder Albino Palazzolo, made a first set of {Degas} bronzes. -- Those 'masters' served to make molds for casting edition of twenty-two bronzes. Technically, all bronzes except the master set are surmoulages.”'[FN 5]

On page 32-33 in Charles W. Milliard’s 1976 The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, the author wrote: “Each cast is stamped with the legend 'cire perdue A.A. Hebrard' in relief, and incised with the signature ‘Degas.’” Later on page 34, the author wrote: “At least some of the casts were set on wooden bases into which the signature “Degas” was burned.”[FN 6]

This metallurgical discovery is confirmed on page 26 of the National Gallery of Art’s published 2010 Edgar Degas Sculptures catalogue, in the “Degas’ Bronzes Analyzed” essay by Shelly G. Sturman and Daphne S. Barbour. In part, the authors wrote: “Analysis of the elemental surface composition of the National Gallery sculptures was performed using X R F, a noninvasive technique. An alloy of copper and zinc with low to medium tin and traces of lead was used to cast all the sculptures. Results were also compared to X R F analysis undertaken at the Norton Simon Museum on the bronze modeles and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on some of the serial A set as well. - Bronze is a misnomer for these sculptures, because they are all cast from brass (copper and zinc with tin).”[FN 7]

In the “LOOKING TO THE PAST FOR a Way Forward: article by Terry Sullivan, published in American Artist’s Spring 2011 issue, the former editor of American Artist wrote of Jane Sutherland’s series on Edgar Degas: “The cycle of images comprises 16 drawings (charcoal on paper with gesso and pumice, all 40" x 30"), eight paintings (oil on linen, ranging in size from 30" x 22" to 60" x 46"), and six portraits (oil on panel, all 6" x 6") based on Edgar Degas’, iconic sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The works—created from studying and copying museum reproductions, Sutherland’s own photos, and many visits to several different museums— present the figure from different angles, sometimes depicted on brightly colored backgrounds, sometimes with or without her skirt.”[FN 8]

Additional, former editor of American Artist Terry Sullivan wrote; “Connecticut artist Jane Sutherland says one method is to work in a different medium from the original. “If it’s in graphite, try ink. If it’s a painting, try graphite.” Or, as she’s recently done in her several-year study of Degas’ sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen [see sidebar “Recasting a Modern Masterpiece,” page 74], try to work two-dimensionally if you’re working from a sculpture. “So in other words, you’re not copying,” she explains. “You’re analyzing the major dynamic elements in a work.” You’ll also encounter your own artistic and compositional problems to solve this way.” [FN 9]

Yet, in contradiction, Jane Sutherland’s paintings and drawings actually seem, in many easily documented cases, to be reproduced directly from photographs culled from museum copyright photographs [sic], published catalogues, and other sources.

This contradiction is further perpetuated  in Mezzo Cammin, a web journal devoted to formal poetry by women, where the artist Jane Sutherland’s motivations for her series on the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is described as  follows: “The allure of taking as a subject one of the most intriguing figures, and one of the great faces, in the history of art was compelling. In the process of making the drawings and paintings I found the young model standing before me rather than an iconic statue. These images are based on the wax original, the plaster cast, and several of the bronzes in select museums.”[FN 10]

The enclosed copies of the museum and photographer Gauthier’s photographs versus photographs of Jane Sutherland's Degas series seem to contradict her assertions that "these images are based on the wax original, the plaster cast, and several of the bronzes in select museums.”

Aside, Edgar Degas -never- worked exclusively in wax or cast the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen in plaster, much less in bronze, as a former Fairfield University Associate Professor Emeritus between 1968-1996, Jane Sutherland should understand offering one thing: “The drawings and paintings in this series have been made using Degas’ wax original, the plaster cast and several of the bronze versions in select museums”[FN 11] and giving another: reproductions using 1919 photographs from the photographer Gauthier and museum photographs of slavish reproduce public domain forgeries  is, at best, intellectually disingenuous and problematic.

“Fairfield University's primary purpose is the pursuit of academic excellence. All members of the Fairfield University community share responsibility for establishing and maintaining appropriate standards of academic honesty and integrity. This is possible only in an atmosphere where discovery and communication of knowledge are marked by scrupulous, unqualified honesty.- According to the academic regulations published by Fairfield University, Plagiarism is listed among several possible acts of academic dishonesty. - Fairfield University defines plagiarism as "the appropriation of information, ideas, or the language of other persons or writers and the submission of them as one's own to satisfy the requirements of a course. Plagiarism thus constitutes both theft and deceit. Assignments (compositions, term papers, computer programs, etc.) acquired either in part or in whole from commercial sources or from other students and submitted as one's own original work will be considered plagiarism... The multiple submission of the same paper or report for assignments in more than one course without the prior written permission of each instructor" is considered self-plagiarism.”[FN 12]

Caveat Emptor!



3. Art Journal © 1995 College Art Association,

4.  © 1998 National Gallery of Art ISBN 0-300-07517-0

5. Copyright © 2000 by High Museum of Art, ISBN 0-8478-2340-7


7. © 2010 ISBN 978-0-691-14897-7, National Gallery of Art, Washington,

8.  American Artist’s published Spring 2011 issue in the “LOOKING TO THE PAST FOR a Way Forward: article by Terry Sullivan

9. Ibid



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