Send As SMS

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Eric Hebborn: Who's Fooling Who?

[ The following quote is from Eric Hebborn (1934-1996), an extraordinarily skilled British painter who came to fame as an art forger in the twentieth-century. His talents were such that he was able to create oil paintings in the style of the old masters that scholars and art experts could not recognize as forgeries. ]

"I am aware that my approach to these artist's work was radically different from that of most visitors to art galleries in our time. Perhaps as an over-reaction to the Victorian critic who tended to pontificate, there is a tendency nowadays for people to make no critical judgment whatsoever, but to accept indiscriminately every thing that is in an art gallery for no better reason than that it is there. To people with that attitude, artworks are not good or bad, they simply are: this idea would seem to be an illogical extension of Alexander Pope's thought: All nature is but art unknown to thee, All chance, direction which thou canst not see; All discord, harmony not understood; All partial evil, universal good; And, spite of pride, in erring reason's sprite, One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.

"Their attitude is, however, a dangerous one for the plastic arts because it does not admit of standards. By it's anything-goes attitude, no painter is any better than any other painter, no age (except perhaps our own) any better than any other age. This is, of course, a reflection of the modern art historian, who with cold objectivity views paintings and other works of art as documents giving an account of the life and times of the men and women who made them. And from this point of view a miserable daub is just as important as a great masterpiece. The excrement I threw about as a child was incontestably as graphic a description of a child's frustration as the frescos in the Sistine Chapel are of a great artist's inspiration, the difference being, I would argue, that as art, it was not as good. Likewise, I believe that the neurotic, desperately extrovert and egocentric works of art that characterise our century provide an admirably clear indication of the mental and spiritual disorders of our time, but, as art, leave much to be desired."

[ Hebborn's comments published here, came from his autobiography, "Drawn to Trouble." In his statement he mentioned Alexander Pope, who is considered to be one of the greatest English poets of the early eighteenth century. ]