Now back to Jimmy…
Over the last several years the Blue Coyote Gallery has received scores of inquiries from individuals claiming to have “original” Swinnerton paintings. Sometimes the caller(or emailer) is positive it is an original. Other times the inquirer acknowledges he or she cannot determine if it’s an original or a reproduction.
In nearly every case the potential seller believes the piece might be an original because brush strokes can be seen on the canvas.
With just about any other painting by any other artist being able to discern strokes is a good indication a piece might indeed be an original. However, in yet another example of his originality, this is not the case with Jimmy’s work. In fact, if “brush strokes” can be easily seen it’s likely not a Swinnerton oil painting. (I’ll explain later why I put brush strokes in quotations.)
So my canned response to every inquirer is
1) “Without seeing the item in person I cannot tell if it is an original or a print.”
2) “For every ten people who have contacted me with Swinnerton “paintings”, only one out the ten (if that) have turned out to have original oil paintings.”
3) “If you can send digital photos to my email address, I will look for a similar image in my archive of Swinnerton reproductions. If I find a match with an image I have seen several times in the past, it is almost assuredly a print. However…(see number one to complete this sentence)”
The reactions range from requests to bring the piece to the gallery to unflattering comments about my judgment.
The latter response is rare. But when it does occur I have frequently seen the alleged “painting” listed on ebay shortly afterwards. Then some poor sap ends up paying thousands of dollars for a reproduction with a fair market value of less than $400 –if that.
Hopefully this will never happen to anyone reading this entry.
“Now, what was that deal about the brush strokes being in quotation marks,” you ask?
In 1946 International Art Publishing Company of Detroit, Michigan published reproductions of twenty-four Swinnerton paintings in various sizes. According to Harold G. Davidson, the company was still marketing the reproductions as recently as the 1980s. The prints were nothing special, in fact they were just that…prints…offset lithos…reproductions on paper…blah…hum drum…gag me…why would anyone pay money for that?
OK, enough of the snooty art criticism.
If it had just stopped with the prints all the mass confusion I have witnessed over the years would have likely never taken place. However sometime in the early 1960s someone or some entity took many of the prints, pasted them canvas, and covered them with a thick layer of varnish to give the appearance of “brush strokes”.
To the untrained eye, these “enhanced reproductions” (as giclees with dabs of oil paint slapped on by the artist are called today…time for another “gag me” comment) look very much like original oil paintings.
I have no idea who performed the dastardly deed with the varnish, or even how many times they committed their crimes. A review of the “Good Taste Police” files reveals nothing.
But given my first-hand experience I can safely say the number far exceeds one hundred.
(Note: Swinnerton original paintings have VERY thin brush strokes which are very hard to discern, unlike the thick varnish strokes which can be seen on the enhanced prints.)
An anecdote: A well-known Scottsdale gallery owner once confided to me the prints were enhanced by Swinnerton himself. He claimed our friend Jimmy was a little short on cash later in life. Could be. Swinnerton lived to the age of 98. Therefore modifying the prints and selling them would be an easy way to raise some coin.
Of course, said gallery owner had no proof. His suspicion was all based on second hand information. “Speculation and conjecture, your honor! Surely our friend Jimmy would not engage in such deceitful behavior!”
Then again Jimmy could have very well have been the culprit. And he could have also told any and all buyers exactly what he was selling. Since I’ve never had a single inquiry on the subject come from an individual who purchased the piece directly, I can’t say.
Well what has been determined by yours truly is that five out of the six images in this entry are enhanced prints. Can you tell which one is the original? (Hint: it’s the fifth one down from top.)
So the next time you see an “original oil painting by James Swinnerton” listed on ebay or anywhere else make sure to ask a lot of questions if you have any interest. Or check back and see if the image is identical to any of the photos above. If you see a similarity…you can figure it out.