Tuesday, May 13, 2014

No credit where no credit is due

Rounding a corner in the Kunstmuseum in Basel we came across a very familiar painting only this time it was by Hans Holbein. His unsettling depiction of death was painted about 450 years before the version we are so familiar with painted by Tony Fomison. We checked online and found the Fomison work was in the Auckland Art Gallery’s collection. But wait a minute. Fomison's 1971 painting Study of Holbein's 'Dead Christ' is credited to “Hans Holbein the Younger and Tony Fomison.” Obviously Hans couldn’t be making a version of his own painting in 1971 - he was dead at the time. So why is he up there with Tony as one of the painting's artists? 

Does the Auckland Art Gallery always credit versions and studies with joint authorship? No, as it happens, they don't. We checked out Steele and Goldie’s The arrival of the Maoris in New Zealand knowing that it was directly based on Theodore Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa. Did Theo get a credit like Hans? Again, it's a no. And just for the record he didn’t get co-authorship for John Reynolds’s version of Raft of the Medusa either (although he probably wouldn’t have minded so much as it’s more abstract than he was used to). 

What sort of relationship is the Auckland At Gallery suggesting with this silliness? Fomison freely acknowledged Holbein’s contribution to the work in his title. So for the record the painting is pure Fomison and not a Holison or a Fombein.

Image: Hans Holbein the Younger's Dead Christ in the Basel Kunstmuseum