In keeping with last week’s theme of dubious dealers, today we are going to look at an original painting that was later doctored and added to, creating a fake layer to the painting that was only discovered until over fifty years after the artist’s death.
Most of you are probably aware of Pollock’s unique drip or action technique of painting, certainly there are plenty of photos depicting the artist in action, splashing buckets of house paint all over an piece of unstretched canvas on the floor. One of his famous large scale works, “One, Number 31, 1950” was recently cleaned thoroughly for the first time since its’ acquisition by the MOMA in 1968. And boy were the conservators in for a shock.
You see, many great works of art throughout history have had some minor tampering with throughout the ages (Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment and the fig leaves springs to mind). However, such goings-on are exceedingly rare from the twentieth century onward. So imagine the surprise of the conservators when, upon concluding that parts of the painting did not match Pollock’s technique, they uncovered an image of the work when it went on tour in 1962 without the uncharacteristic sections of paint. This gave the MOMA a very neat window in which to date the “restoration” of the painting.
But what could have prompted such bizarre touch ups to a painting that could not have been more than a few decades old? This is where it gets even more interesting. The conservators at the MOMA discovered thin cracks under the fake patches of paint, suggesting that the dealer might have had the cracked areas covered up to make the painting more easily marketable.
Fortunately the conservators were able to lift off the fake layers of the painting to reveal the original work of the artist in all its’ cracked glory, allowing the painting to be displayed as Pollock would have intended.