Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On Hindsight and Blindness

aka Greta Garbo Lips:

Hans Meegeren, Forger Extraordinaire, ~1930's

note: Hans VanMeegeren is perhaps the world's most well-known forger of fine art. In the ~1930's, he tricked everyone into thinking his paintings were those of 1600's Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer. By the ~1980-s, critics looked at his work with confusion:

Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery
Hans Van Meegeren forging Johannes Vermeer, 1942
"How could people believe these things were painted in the 1600's, all the faces have Greta Garbo's lips; it's so obvious!"
Greta Garbo, ~1930's

Regarding the subjective ‘reading’ of the work/artist to be forged:
“It has often been pointed out forgeries which looked entirely convincing when they were made reveal an obvious deficiency to the eyes of a later generation. This is so because a forger unintentionally supplies the work of the past with the qualities he and his peer s [unconsciously] see in them”. (1)

Maybe it was "Greta Garbo Eyes"...?

“There is one time-related art historical principle that VanMeegeren could not account for or combat – namely, the fact that works of art often bear the stamp, the characteristics of their own era. [Because of these tendencies for contemporary features to creep into forgeries] the style of VanMeegeren’s paintings is like that of Vermeer only superficially. The important resemblances to such Symbolist artists as Toorop are much more important. Characteristics that mark an era may be those that are most universally appreciated at that time. They seem also to be the qualities that become “dated” most quickly. The generation for which these qualities are in fashion tends to be blind to them, but to the next generation they may become painfully evident. This is certainly true of the VanMeegerens. What was lauded in the 1930’s looks superficial and thin in the 1980’s. No doubt we are as blind to the telltale appearance of our own taste and fashions in contemporary forgeries.” (2)

-1. Rudolph Arnheim, “On Duplication”, pp232-245
-2. Hope B. Werness, “Han VanMeegeren fecit” pp1-57
in The Forger’s Art: Forgery and the Philosophy of Art
Denis Dutton, ed.
Berkeley, 1983 

Partially-related internet article:

Greta Garbo Lips

“A mouth drawn outwards with square edges emphasizes the stern, perfectionist appearance of the sober 30’s. Women, having witnessed the financial battery of the Great Depression, are thrifty and austere. Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich – powerful, yet glamorous women who are not afraid to determine their own fate – are idols of the time. Their steely and androgynous appearance personifies the adult woman. Lip color is a silky/glossy reddish brown.”

Lipstick Trends Through The Decades
August 4, 2009 
Sarah Howard, Beauty Banter

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