Authenticity and fakes with paintings

Authenticity within art, and especially within painting, remains an ambiguous concept. On the one hand it seems clear; if an artist has made a painting that did not exist before, we can regard it as authentic. But what about a thoroughly restored and even partially repainted masterpiece? Is that still authentic? Or, for example, a counterfeit of Van Meegeren? These paintings are authentic in the sense that they are a unique representation, but on the other hand not authentic as they were made with the purpose of attributing them to another artist. It is also interesting how we suddenly give a different appreciation to a painting as soon as we find out that it was made by an old master, although the painting itself has not changed that. It is precisely this world around authenticity in the art world that is further explored in this article.

The ever-changing world

The world is changing faster and faster. According to Mead, the first twenty years of the 20th century experienced as much technological progress as the entire 19th century combined. This ever-changing world seems to have advantages in particular; communicating with people all over the world is easier than ever, access to information has never been more widespread and medical knowledge and expertise have reached phenomenal heights. Yet there are not only benefits to this ever-changing world; the changes are going too fast for many people. For example, there are still many elderly people who have no faith in a PIN machine, are afraid that computers will explode if they press a wrong key or look suspiciously at medical progress and find their way to "grandma's remedies". According to Hermann Lübbe, a German philosopher, this is not strange either; he states that people can only cope with a limited pace of change. Lübbe also endorses the enormous speed of change of the present.

The desire for authenticity and tranquility

To look for a piece of security, a rock in the surf, in an ever-changing world, people quickly look back to the past. It is precisely in this past that one tries to seek the peace, to seek the certainty that the rapidly changing world lacks. Every self-respecting holiday destination advertises exuberantly with all authentic buildings, works of art or other exceptional remnants from the past that can be visited there. According to David Lowenthal, a historian, this is part of an authenticity cult that is increasingly moving through our western civilization. People are increasingly looking for the "authenticity" that can bring peace to our rapidly changing world in which nothing remains the same for long, and virtually nothing is what it seems. Prof. Kuipers, professor of cultural sociology at the University of Amsterdam, therefore states that we are increasingly looking for those nowadays authenticity, That authenticity.
As Kuipers states in a column in SOMO:
“Filled with a desire for authenticity, millions of people get on a plane every year. (...) Do you like that temple? But it is only twenty years old, rebuilt after a fire / earthquake / revolution, not at all real. Do you like this food? Everything here is adapted for tourists, the locals eat it much sharper. As if your own judgments and experiences have to take the exam all the time with the expert of Between art and kitsch. A strange paradox: The obsession with authenticity leads you to always question the authenticity of your own judgments. ”

Authenticity with paintings

We also see the importance of authenticity in painting; recent reports about "found" paintings by master painters are widely reported in the media. This became a new one in 2013 painting by Van Gogh discovered. The painting in question, Sunset at Montmajour, was not hidden under a decayed floor or found in the attic of a demolition house. No, the painting had been in private ownership for years and had previously been tested for authenticity in the 1990s. However, while the Van Gogh museum concluded in the 1990s that the painting was false, a new investigation by the same museum confirmed the authenticity of the painting in 2013. The painting therefore did not cease to exist and nothing has changed about the painting. Yet that one word, authenticity, has ensured that every major newspaper paid attention to it; NRC Handelsblad, Spits, Volkskrant, De Telegraaf and on television, attention was even paid to it at the Jeugdjournaal of 9 September 2013.

Depend on authenticity and authenticity

The desire for authenticity and authenticity is increasing. This desire for authenticity also seems to exist with regard to art. People are willing to pay more for an authentic piece of art. When the authenticity of art is established, this is reflected in the media and many people focus their attention on this outcome. The development of authenticity with regard to art has endured an interesting historical development. In the Middle Ages, for example, art belonged to the community. Highlighting the artist was not important. Nevertheless, the desire for individualization was increasing, whereby signing one's own work was no longer delayed. Here the foundation was laid for the concept of 'authenticity". Here we speak of the current 'classicism', a movement that originated in the Renaissance. These days we also speak of 'lighting'.

The concept of authenticity

Now that the concept of 'authenticity' began to take shape, the opposition 'forgery' also arose. Romanticism and Realism subsequently entered the 19th century, with individual expression becoming increasingly important. A development that was of great importance for the 20th century, in which the autonomous, authentic, unique artwork of the performing artist was assigned its own value.
Many aspects form part of the concept of authenticity, which means that it cannot be clearly defined. Based on the theories of Ernst van de Wetering, this concept can be divided into 3 categories, namely:
  • Material authenticity; The original form and content of a work or object.
  • Conceptual authenticity; Is connected to the intention of the maker.
  • Contextual authenticity; Is connected to the original location of a work or object.

The following question is asked; If one attaches importance to the material aspect of an object, is the conceptual intention then compromised? As time leaves its mark, the conceptual intention is compromised, which could cause the intention of an artist to be lost.
In addition to these three forms, a distinction can be made, namely the ahistorical and the historical authenticity:
  • Ahistorical authenticity; The pure work of art. in the case of restoration, the work will always be returned to its original state, whereby all overpaintings will be removed.
  • Historical authenticity; A work of art has a history in which successive changes are present. Changes such as overpainting may therefore continue to exist. The theory of temporal parts is in line with this form. This states that when an object changes, no matter how small this change is, the real object has ceased to exist and a new object has emerged

It should be clear that ahistorical authenticity is connected to material authenticity and historical authenticity is connected to conceptual authenticity.

Forging art and Han van Meegeren

It falsifying art is a criminal activity that has always taken place. Master forger Han van Meegeren is an important part of this history. The painting 'The Emmausgoers' in particular has caused a great deal of commotion in art history. "Someone who forged it could not be an artist, and certainly not an artist with his own contribution." His work was therefore not highly valued and therefore publicly exhibited. The public protested and demanded that the work still have a place within the museum. This shows that there is a difference in appreciation between art connoisseurs and laymen.

Reproductions and authenticity

In the thesis' practically real? Heritage values ​​and copies of art 'it has been investigated whether exhibitions in various specialist art centers can be regarded as the successful use of copies in an art-museum context. Reactions during these exhibitions were compared with each other. This has shown that visitors can also optimally admire the work when using copies. In addition, it also turned out that not every visitor could appreciate the inauthenticity of the exhibition; people from the art world are more likely to pick up their nose than 'the common people'. The research has also shown that the aesthetic aspects are considered more important than the financial and historical aspects. This applies to both original work and reproductions. In addition to these results, a separate study was conducted that looked at "willingness to pay". This showed that people are less willing to pay a lot for a reproduction if the original no longer exists or is found to be untraceable. If the original work exists people pay more for a reproduction The actual existence of the original is linked to historical value The research also showed that art connoisseurs attach more importance to the historical and financial aspects than laymen, and do not support the aesthetically increased value of reproductions. Making reproductions more beautiful affects history. Prior knowledge also plays a major role in the valuation of an object. The Russian artist Gennady Goushchin believes that reproductions will take on a life of their own alongside the original. They undermine the aura of the original work. The definition of the aura of the work is explained as follows by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin: The experience of the physical proximity of the past, of the artist in his time who touched it.

Authentic, fake or counterfeit and authentication

To exclude or work authentic is or perhaps one fake or forgery some methods of authentication are applied. Art connoisseurs recognize a counterfeit in various facets. Among other things, the signature and the brush stroke are looked at. Nevertheless, it is important to establish the authenticity with certainty even with advanced techniques and methodologies. Radiography was introduced around 1900. Subsequently, chemical analysis techniques and infrared were developed in the 3rd quarter of the 20th century. these techniques were also used within the Rembrandt Research Project to establish the authenticity of Rembrandt's paintings. The original objective of the project was to settle historical misconceptions, presuppositions and prejudices with respect to the total oeuvre of Rembrandt van Rijn. The research was started in 1968 and at the start a time frame of 10 to 12 research years was estimated. A team of researchers were deployed. They traveled the world and studied every painting assigned to Rembrandt. However, the opinions among the group members were divided. Some, for example, tended to attribute more and more work to Rembrandt, and the reductionists were opposed to this. This difference of opinion later disintegrated the research group.
It is clear that authenticity can be interpreted in different ways, such as conceptual, material and contextual authenticity. In addition, it has become clear that the importance that people attach to authenticity is strongly dependent on culture and the spirit of the times. Art connoisseurs also seem to attach a different importance to authenticity than the average citizen.

Video: Forgery Experts Explain 5 Ways To Spot A Fake. WIRED (February 2020).

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