Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Buyer Beware!

Another spurious John R. Neill drawing has emerged on the market from Rhyton Gallery - this is the third that I've seen in the past year, and this time the artist has chosen to try replicating a drawing that I own.

 The drawing chosen is a chapter heading of Glinda, from 1914's Tik-Tok of Oz. The other two copied drawings that the gallery offered were both based on pieces from The Wonder City of Oz, a much later title featuring Neill's late style of drawing - bolder and simpler. In attempting the more delicate style of Glinda, the artist's deficiencies are pronounced - there's really no comparison between the original and the copy.

 Aside from the obvious visual differences, the new drawing is on paper rather than artist's board. The artist was probably unaware of the fact that the original of this illustration is drawn on a much larger board than the image itself. The double ruled line beneath the drawing, something seen on most of the chapter titles from this book, has been discarded and a nice fat fake signature has been added - in spite of the fact that none of the Tik-Tok drawings are signed. It's the same signature seen on the other two drawings previously offered, and of the wrong style for this time period.

While I feel the addition of the signature makes this an outright forgery, it doesn't stop the piece being offered. There has at least been an improvement in the style of listing on Live Auctioneers. Rather than being listed as "attributed to" John R. Neill, it is now listed as "in the manner of". This is a significant change, as anyone can try drawing something in the manner of another artist - but there’s no excuse for sticking a fake signature on the piece. The listing already has two bids  - as always in collecting, Buyer Beware!


Paul Bienvenue said...

Thanks for posting this, Bill! You're providing a valuable public service. I'd actually bookmarked the auction with the intent to examine it closely later, as your previous post on the Wonder City art left me in a suspicious state of mind. There is an excellent documentary on art fraud on Netflix titled "Made You Look" that discusses the "in the manner of" dodge when the artwork has a forged signature, and the conclusion is that a fraud is a fraud. These people really need to be prosecuted, but the relatively small potatoes prices involved may make it very difficult to interest the authorities.

Bill Campbell said...

The drawing should be listed as “Unknown Artist” rather than John R. Neill. The multiple disclaimers in the listing make it clear that everyone involved knows this is not a real piece of Neill artwork. Sadly, Rhyton Gallery appears to be a chop shop of fake art, and Live Auctioneers is giving them a platform for selling their forgeries. I did point out this lack of oversight to Live Auctioneers when the last fake Neill was offered - I think that may have helped change the “attributed to” listing to “in the manner of”, which is marginally better but certainly not a firm enough action to stop the dubious activity.

Paul Bienvenue said...

As of 5/13, I see that those two bids have been deleted. Here's hoping that the word is getting out, and thank you, Bill, for your efforts in that direction.

Bill Campbell said...

In the end, there were 2 bids and the drawing sold for $300, plus an additional 29.9% buyers premium. I can only hope that whoever bought it realizes what it is - or isn’t!

Paul Bienvenue said...

You might be interested to see this recent listing on LiveAuctioneers:


Note that, as with the Neills, it is "signed" as Jackson Pollock. Note also that although the $450 sale price is only a tiny fraction of the "estimate" of $18,000 to $25,000, a genuine Pollock original would easily sell in the seven to eight figure range.

And here we have the same weasel words about "rendered in the abstract style of Jackson Pollock" and the disclaimer that "In the artist's style it means: The piece can be original from the artist or from any other painter."

This appears to be becoming a depressing trend. LiveAuctioneers could easily ban such language, and perhaps it will if enough people complain.