The Case of the Problematic Charles Blackman Paintings Pt. 2

The Case of the Problematic Charles Blackman Paintings Pt. 2
Girl with a Starry Dress and Bouquet (detail)

The controversy surrounding the sale of two paintings at auction through auctioneers Deutscher and Hackett in 2011 that were sold as being by Charles Blackman, but which have since been allegedly identified as the work of another artist, has been the subject of much debate.

Having gone through all the correct authentication procedures, and obtained permission from the Blackman trust to sell the paintings as the work of Charles Blackman, Deutscher and Hackett Executive Director Damian Hackett is understandably discouraged by the current situation.

In an interview with Artinfo Australia, Mr. Hackett revealed he is frustrated that the scientific testing is taking longer than anticipated and that an outcome has yet to be delivered.  “While the delay continues, all of the clients involved are understandably concerned, however all have been assured that whatever the outcome, their interests will be protected,” said Hackett.

Because the paintings were unsigned when originally consigned to the auction house, Charles Blackman himself was brought to the Deutscher and Hackett headquarters to confirm that the paintings were in fact his.  According to Mr. Hackett, at one stage the artist even pointed at one of the paintings, winked at the gallery manager and said “I painted that”.  “I certainly hope so,” the gallery manager replied.

Following confirmation that he indeed did paint the works, Blackman signed the two paintings.  Claims by Blackman’s daughter Christabel that the signatures on the paintings are not typical can be explained by the fact that the 84-year-old artist began to sign his full name but then had to change to just signing the works C. Blackman when it became apparent that his full name wouldn’t fit in the allocated space.

Allegations have also been made that Blackman signed works that had not been painted by him because he suffers from a brain disorder called Korsakoff's syndrome that affects his memory.  Mr. Hackett, however, recalls that Mr. Blackman was lucid and alert when he identified and signed the paintings. 

In a lengthy assessment of the two paintings provided to Artinfo Australia by Charles Blackman’s daughter Christabel Blackman, a recognised expert in her father’s work, Ms. Blackman identifies several anomalies which she claims indicate that the paintings were not by her father.

According to Ms. Blackman,“Some of the most obvious differences are that Franki’s compositions are simplistic and contrived, the brushwork laboured and unsure; the colours are flat and unmixed.  In Girl with a Starry Dress and Bouquet, the girl’s face is nondescript and half missing, not like a typical Blackman shadow, which is more akin to the descriptive darkness of a waning moon. 

“In ‘Girl behind a Shower Screen’, the differences between the two artists styles are even more apparent.  Franki has delineated the figure in a cut out fashion, and painted her in a stark contrasting white which my father would never have done.  Again the immaturity in anatomical references and the way the underground colour is similar to that of the figure and just merges in a confused manner is not Charles Blackman’s style.”

At the time of writing the final decision of whether or not the two paintings in question are by Charles Blackman had been handed over to the Blackman trust who have the final say with regards to the authenticity of paintings attributed to Blackman. 

Part 1 of the investigation can be viewed here