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The Importance Of Pigments And How To Spot A Fake

Stephane Fitch recently reported in “Forbes” new technologies being employed to identify forged works of art – even those good enough to fool the experts.

Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock painting in his studio, Springs, New York, 1949 © Time Inc.

ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING FINDS in recent art history was Filmmaker Alex Matter’s announcement in May 2005 that among his family's belongings on Long Island, he discovered 32 drip paintings from his deceased parents’ close friend and neighbor, Jackson Pollock. The collection’s value was thought to be near $40 million.

Alex Matter had the works authenticated by a well-known Pollock scholar, Ellen G. Landau. Then he went a step further, allowing other outside experts study the paintings more closely.

Among the experts was James Martin, who’s Williamstown, Mass., firm, Orion Analytical, specializes in using new technology to study art. Martin discovered paint on Matter's Pollock’s that didn't exist in the artist's lifetime. The red pigments from 10 of the paintings, for example, matched “pigment red 254,” first patented by Swiss specialty chemicals maker Ciba in 1981. And there were “metal oxide-coated mica interference pigments” on 14 of the worksa type of paint pigment patented in 1961, five years after Pollock's death.

If the paintings are indeed fakes, and had been sold to a collector, they'd be part of the $6 billion a year the Federal Bureau of Investigation says we pay for forged, misattributed and stolen art.

More About Pigments

I’m often asked about the differences between oil paints and watercolor and what makes them different from ordinary house paint.

The only physical difference are the vehicles used to carry the pigments, the same pigments are used in oil paintings, water color paintings, pastels, acrylics as well as house paints.

The sources of pigments include minerals, animals and even synthetics created in chemical laboratories. These pigments are classified in three categories organic, inorganic and synthetic.

When a pigment is mixed or ground into a liquid, or vehicle, it becomes PAINT. Pigments do not dissolve, but remain suspended in the vehicle, enabling them to flow smoothly from a brush, crayon, pastel, or other tool. 

Pigments have a long history of use by humans, dating back to the time humans occupied caves, Egyptians decorated the tombs of Pharaohs and Romans colorfully decorated homes and public places.

The media I use in all of my original art is made from the highest quality pigments ensuring your ‘Bacharach’ treasure will look as good in 100 years as it did the day you first displayed it.




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