Fake Simonsons!

I was recently contacted by a reputable art dealer in California who wanted to authenticate a couple of Simonson paintings he had acquired in an estate sale. He sent me photos of the works and I was surprised at how good the copies were—but still, it was clear to me that they were copies. I’m a little bit flattered and a little bit horrified–but wanted to let you all know that there are fake Simonsons out there! Read on for more information, and some tips on identifying the real thing:

Above is one of the paintings the dealer sent me for verification. It’s a 1988 painting I did entitled Kane. Can you tell which one is the fake? Look at the image below for a closeup:

I’ll be surprised if you couldn’t tell, but just in case–the one on the right is the real Simonson. Notice the contour lines are more subtle and nuanced compared with the flat, one-dimensional lines of the figure on the left. The best way I can think of to characterize the difference is that the copy has a stiffness about it and the real painting has a more fluid, lifelike quality. (This may be a helpful tip if you find yourself at an estate sale or an art gallery and see a “Simonson” and want to know if it’s authentic.)

Below is another work the same dealer showed me. This one is called “Red Dancer” and it’s from 2001.

You should be able to spot this one easily–it’s a less convincing copy than the Kane painting. Again, the fake is on the left. A big clue here is the flatness of the color in the copy. One thing many amateur painters do (and I don’t) is use black to darken their colors, and it looks like that’s what was done here.

After giving the dealer the bad news that he’d wound up with a couple of fakes, I got curious and decided to do a little online investigation. On E-Bay I discovered the following:

Below is a side-by-side comparison with the actual painting. This one is called “In the Tropics” and I painted this in 2002. The model is Torano.

In this case, the side-by-side comparison just reveals that the copyists have used an image of the original as a sales tool (although it’s been reversed, and copied and re-copied so many times it’s a poor representation). The real clue here is that it’s coming from China. It’s doubtful the actual painting you would receive if you were to fall for this scam would look much like the promotional image.

I came across other China fakes in my short search too. But there copies out there from other places as well. So be cautious about purchasing a “Simonson” from anyone but myself. Obviously there’s a huge advantage to purchasing directly from the artist!

But don’t worry–if you ever need some help authenticating a work, I’m happy to help. Just e-mail me a photo and I’ll do my best to help figure out if it’s the real thing or not.

4 replies on “Fake Simonsons!

  • cbiron

    Douglas….Very few artists are able to capture brown and black skin the way that you do. The meaty rich deep reds and maroons you use on Africans and the siennas and yellow ochres you use on Latinos are vibrant; yet totally believable. I stand in awe of your ability. Also, good advice on looking for the line quality in accessing fake drawings.

    • admin

      yes, as long as you don’t do several, or sell them to others. but why don’t you send me an email and let me know what you have in mind–I might have other suggestions.


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