A FORENSIC STUDY IN AUTHENTICATION
PETER PAUL BIRÓ
This page chronicles the researchwork about Teri Horton's discovery between 2001 and 2007. There have been developments since which can be found here in an article in which the painting is conclusively identified as the work of Jackson Pollock. Updated: September 19, 2013.
Revision 8: Added additional comments in Note to the reader following this section.
Revision 7: Included material on paint media. This revision is in situ not an added section following revision 6.
Revision 6: Added an Epilogue at the bottom of this page regarding the recent press and media in November 2006, as well as new data of another fingerprint match.
Revision 5: Added details of additional supporting fingerprint evidence discovered on a Catalogued Pollock painting in September 2006.
Revision 4: Added Part IV with new findings on paint media, independent confirmation of fingerprint comparison, and references to media coverage.
Revision 3: Added Part III with new findings on pigment analyses, issues relating to prepared canvas and use of acrylic.
Revision 2: Added new and additional fingerprint identification which was available in May 2001.
Note to the reader: No material presented here may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without permission by the author. Further information may be obtained by contacting the author. All photographs unless otherwise indicated are by the author.
To avoid confusion, the reader is reminded that the first part is the first report concluded in April 2001. The successive parts contain additional material and some clarifications in light of new information. Footnotes are at the bottom of this web page. I have added a few notes which are in parentheses.
I refer to this discovery as "Teri's Find". In my view it is appropriate as the owner Teri Horton deserves every credit for it. That it is now presented in this fashion is solely a personal gesture and a free gift to the owner Teri who has to my mind persevered in her brilliant and single-minded pursuit of what she perceived as being right - the recognition that the thrift shop painting she purchased for $8 is indeed the work of Jackson Pollock.
This painting and this research has received front page coverage in the international media, TV and radio on the major networks. Some links are provided below.
For security reasons, several images in this report are watermarked in a way that is not apparent to the observer .
The fingerprint images have also been reduced in resolution so as to render them unusable except for illustration.
I advise against evaluating the fingerprint images illustrated in this report as if they were the actual source material. Any attempt to do so is pointless as no valid conclusion can be drawn from such low resolution images except to say that they are too low in resolution to evaluate. In addition, as an added security and control measure, the image of the fingerprint comparison (figure 10) is also watermarked - the nature of which is proprietary and is known only to me.
The actual fingerprint comparison being used in
this case has not been published anywhere for privacy and security reasons.
That fingerprint comparison is independently confirmed. To reiterate: any
attempt to evaluate the fingerprint comparison published here in figure 10
and to draw conclusions from it is irrelevant as it serves as an
illustration only and, for reasons explained in section II, I chose to
discard that comparison in figure 10
back in 2001 and seek other comparisons - the ones not
The actual fingerprint comparison being used in this case has not been published anywhere for privacy and security reasons. That fingerprint comparison is independently confirmed. To reiterate: any attempt to evaluate the fingerprint comparison published here in figure 10 and to draw conclusions from it is irrelevant as it serves as an illustration only and, for reasons explained in section II, I chose to discard that comparison in figure 10
back in 2001
and seek other comparisons - the ones not published here.
Although this study is published on the Internet
some parts are proprietary and therefore not 'public domain'.
Although this study is published on the Internet some parts are proprietary and therefore not 'public domain'.
The purpose of this presentation is explained in
its title: a Forensic Study in Authentication. For information regarding the
fullness of this project contact the owner.
The purpose of this presentation is explained in its title: a Forensic Study in Authentication. For information regarding the fullness of this project contact the owner.
Initially, I have been retained to conduct this investigation. Since May, 2001, I have worked on this project pro bono.
Research conducted by:
Biro Fine Art Restoration
& Forensic Studies in Art
3014 St. Antoine St. West, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H4C 1A5
Phone and fax: (514) 933-2885
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I grew up in the art world. My father was art restorer to the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, Hungary, for many years and he is also a recognized painter. Early on, I became familiar with the work of many artists, techniques, art materials and styles including Jackson Pollock’s. I now have some 30 years of experience in fine art restoration, forensic and art-historical research.
From 1970 to 1990, I worked in a family enterprise called Center for Art Restoration, in downtown Montreal, Canada. By 1990, my father retired. I continue the vocation with a concentration on scientific and forensic investigation to assist in matters of conservation, authorship and authenticity. Since 1990, I have been concentrating almost entirely on the use of forensic techniques and technology to aid in art-related studies.
Other areas of specialization are optical and electron microscopy which aid the precise identification of art materials[i]. I have been pioneering the use of fingerprint identification in attribution of works of art since 1984[ii] with numerous attributions and discoveries to my credit[iii]. I am also a specialist in scientific photography and digital image processing.
My research on art materials and techniques has been published in such scholarly journals as Mankind Quarterly[iv]. A new major paper will be in print in Antiquity[v], in the June, 2001 edition. I am co-founder of an international interdisciplinary group of scientists[vi] exploring some of the oldest paintings of humankind. In October of 1998, I gave an important paper at the International Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Toronto on Italian Renaissance techniques of composition and the use of geometry. In addition to traditional connoisseurship, my specializations embrace a forensic approach coupled with modern scientific methods of detection that are not specific to any individual artist but rather encompass elements universal to them – the artistic process. I have given talks numerous talks and was panelist at symposia, most recently at the annual conference of the Appraiser's Association of America, New York, at the annual conference of the Royal Microscopical Society, London, National Portrait Gallery. I will be speaking at the University of Glasgow international conference on Conservation and Authenticity March 24th, 2006.
I have recently published an important paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Microscopical Society, Oxford, March 2006 edition. My forensic research work is now part of a collaboration with the Pigmentum Project, Oxford University, Department of Archaeology.
My fingerprint and investigative work is known to forensic scientists from the RCMP, the FBI[ix] and various police departments as well as to major museums and universities. I am presently working on the manuscript of my first book exploring the potential of fingerprint science in attributing works of art. Further information on my fingerprint work can be found on my web site.
2006 saw the completion of two important documentaries focusing on my work. One, entitled Who the #%&% is Jackson Pollock chronicling this present investigation is already being screened at various film festivals. The other, a two hour Discovery Channel presentation traces the story of a possible new Leonardo da Vinci discovery. It is due to be aired in May, 2006.
A more detailed biography is on the About page.
It has been my privilege to work on this project.
Peter Paul Biro
March , 2006
A painting of
an abstract composition in the poured style, executed in emulsion paint and
acrylic on cotton
canvas (also called cotton duck) , 66 ¾ x 47 5/8 inches. (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Teri's Find
a) The composition is painted in emulsion paint (sometimes referred to as enamel) [x] and acrylic. Visual examinations suggest this; however, the medium could be further identified scientifically[xii]. See Revision IV.
For now, that the paint is of the enamel type was determined through visual assessment of the high level of gloss and through prior experience.
b) The painting was never varnished. It is free from mechanical damage, wear, prior restorations or alterations. /The painting is relatively clean.It does not suggest the need for cleaning or any conservation./
c) The canvas is stretched and stapled to a stretcher that appears somewhat weak relative to the dimensions of the painting.
|Figure 2. The arrow may point to the top of the painting.||Figure 3. The calliper jaws at 1 inch placed on the canvas.|
a) The canvas measures 66 ¾ x 47 5/8 inches.
b) The painting may have been intended to be vertical, indicated by a small arrow marked by a blue ballpoint pen on the stretcher[xiii]. (Figure 2)
c) The stretcher is of a ‘workshop variety’ constructed from standard 1x2 inch pine stock reinforced with four approx. 8x9 inch squares of 1/8-inch thick plywood at the corners. (Figure 5)
d) The canvas is white cotton and the full width has been used – a standard 54 inch wide stock. This is evidenced by the presence of the finish on both sides of the weave. The canvas weave is 28 single threads per inch by 36 double threads per inch (11 threads per cm by 14 threads per cm) with an average thickness of 0.022 inch. (Figure 3)
e) The painting appears cut from a roll after it was painted. The painting had to have been done with the canvas being level with the ground. The cutting is evident along the two long sides. The pouring of paint extended beyond these edges.
Figure 4. Pollock painting, 1949.
Pollock normally used white cotton duck for painting. It is
interesting to note the canvas facing away from us in the top right
corner leaning against the wall. The folded edge is distinctly
'white' and is probably primed. The canvas looks much darker than
cotton duck and it is probably natural linen. Compare it to the
verso of the painting in figure 4b. That is how cotton duck looks -
almost white. It is important to note that there are always
exceptions to what one assumes to be 'normal practice' by an
Photographs 4-4b: Arnold Newman.
|Figure 4a. Pollock and Krasner in 1949 in front of stretched canvases. The stretcher bars appear very similar to the stretcher of Teri's find.||Figure 4b. Pollock in front of a (vertical) stretcher reinforced just as in Teri’s Find.Note the rectangular form left and right of his shoulders. They are pieces of wood used to reinforce the joints of the stretcher.||Figure 5. Teri’s Find, verso. The corner joints are reinforced with pieces of plywood and the canvas stapled on top. Along the right edge some paint may have bled through the canvas or was picked up from the surface on which it was painted.|
f) Because of the above implications (e), I illustrate here on figure 4 how Pollock painted on a roll of canvas tacked to the floor. He stretched the canvas almost without exception after fully completed[xiv].
g) Figure 4 also illustrates Pollock’s technique in overextending his pouring movements and thereby the trajectories of flying paint extend beyond the bounds of the canvas. The patterns made on the studio floor are a direct result of this. When cut, the actual painting becomes the ‘central portion’ of the original design. This ‘cropping’ helped, in part, to create the effect of a unified and balanced painting.
h) On figure 4, to the left and behind of Pollock are visible strips of wood stock, no doubt for constructing his stretchers. They appear to be 1x2 and 1x3 stock.
i) On figure 4a, we observe to the right of Lee Krasner, a stretched canvas on »1x3 stock. On the floor is an unrolled run of canvas. The stretcher is of a simple workshop construction.
j) Figure 5 shows Teri’s Find from the verso. Here, we see the corners of the stretcher reinforced with pieces of plywood. These would serve to stabilize the frame before the canvas is attached.
k) Figure 4b shows Pollock in front of his paintings in his barn studio, The Springs, Long Island. Here, on the back of the canvas behind him, we find an analogy for the rectangular reinforcements on the stretcher seen of Teri’s Find. The canvas, here too, is stretched over the rectangular attachments, again, as we see in Teri’s find.
a) I collected four scrapings (labelled A-D) of paint from the folded-over edge of the canvas with a surgical probe for later analyses.
b) I collected six samples[xv] of hair and fibre. The hair samples appear to be human, dark brown in colour[xvi]. Some are covered with paint. Judging their colour is difficult without cleaning[xvii] but generally appears to be dark brown. Some were embedded in the paint layer. They could be used for comparison should reference material become available later. Their examination is still cursory.
c) Vial 7 is water used and 8 contains the swab used to remove contamination from the painting for possible later testing.
d) Vial 9 contains a staple removed from the folded edge of the painting.
e) The sample collection has been recorded on photographs and on Dictaphone.
The painting’s history is sketchy at best. I am informed by the owner that it had been purchased at a country sale in California in 1992 or 1993 by Teri for very little. Nothing of its ownership is known before this. Nevertheless, a tantalizing clue emerges from correspondence with her son Bill [xviii]:
“Purchased at an antique store in San Bernardino, Ca. The dealer bought it at an estate sale in the Victorville, Ca. area. It was included in a room upstairs in a house at the estate sale. It was wrapped in a big piece of carpet/burlap loaded with dust and spider webs according to the daughter of the owner of the antique store who has since gone out of business and we understand the owner has passed away. About 3 years ago, my mom went back to the location of the store but it was no longer there. She says she talked to the daughter but did not get her name. Mom says she went back there last month but could not locate anyone.
Charles Cecil Pollock supposedly lived in the Apple Valley area close to
Victorville area and according to the Social Security index the final check
was paid in 1991 or 1992. We believe he died in 1991. The painting was
bought in 1992 or 1993. Mom doesn't remember.”
The possible connection with a Pollock family member is certainly a lead worth following up, though with Charles Cecil’s death any information is likely to be circumstantial.
In their catalogue raisonné, Thaw and O’Connor write[xix]:
“Other obviously authentic works could not always be readily traced to their origin. The artist himself, or others, gave some away or sold them without record. Others were privately transferred or inherited. Later such examples entered the art market with their previous ownerships blurred."
This may have been the wayward route of Teri’s Find to California[xx]. Ultimately, we will likely never know for sure.
|Figure 4b. This print proved to have a sufficient number of characteristics for comparison.||Figure 4a. This print, though clearly left when the paint was still wet, proved too poor for use.||Figure 5. Using the 3D approach, it was possible to examine remaining ridges in detail from any angle.|
a) I located and documented forensic evidence on Teri’s Find such as two fingerprints left in wet paint, i.e. coinciding with the point in time of the painting’s creation. One was located along the folded edge of the canvas on the verso. This print is not clear enough for comparison, as it does not have enough discernible characteristics. (Figure 4a)
b) The second fingerprint was discovered on the verso. Its location has been recorded and photographed. It was deposited with a fingertip that was coated with paint of various colours. The print was photographed with a macro lens at 1:1 reproduction ratio with a medical ring flash unit. (Figure 4b)
c) The latter recorded fingerprint was found to have 16 identifiable characteristics and it was considered usable for comparison. DIP[xxi] was used to enhance the print and to verify that the observed characteristics were not artefacts of the canvas’ weave. Additionally, sophisticated imaging software[xxii] was used to render the fingerprint image in simulated three-dimensional space to ascertain that all possible recognizable ridge characteristics are recorded. (Figure 5)
d) During this research, I located and examined numerous fingerprints on reproductions of Pollock’s paintings.
e) Because of its excellent photographic quality, I concentrated on Varnedoe’s catalogue[xxiii]. On illustration 184-190, (page 282) I noticed numerous fingerprints[xxiv]. The illustrations were scanned from the book at 1200 dpi in full colour and the images examined on the computer using a sophisticated image-processing program[xxv]. I was able to document fingerprints clear enough for comparison. (Figure 9a)
f) At a scene of crime, or in our case on a work of art, usually only partial prints are found and the presence of all the characteristics is not required. When two prints are compared, they have to reveal characteristics, which are not only identical but are also similarly located in relation to one another. Just as in a judicial proceeding, a point-by-point comparison has to be established. The number of points that have to match is not universally agreed on, however, 6 to 8 points are often sufficient[xxvi].
g) Upon examining the Berlin images, I noticed that a small partial fingerprint from painting #4 in that series contains ridge patterns that closely resemble a portion of the fingerprint from Teri’s Find. These are reproduced in exploded views on figure 9a.
|Figure 9. Exploded view of the portion of the fingerprint under examination from Teri’s Find.||Figure 9a. Exploded view of the fingerprint under examination from Jackson Pollock: Untitled (Red Painting Number 4) c. 1950, oil on canvas. Private Collection, Berlin. Number 4 in a series.|
h) When reproduced to the same scale and in the same orientation, in all, 12 characteristics appear identical and in the same relative position to one another. The print from Teri’s find is clear in this particular area but the comparison print, being reproduced from a book is not as clear and it is also partial. Notwithstanding, I attempted a comparison.
i) First, it was necessary to perform DIP on both images. In the case of the fingerprint from Teri’s find, it was important that the ridge patterns are not confused with the contribution of the background, principally the weave of the canvas. This was achieved through following the colour index of each ridge’s paint-deposit – on the microscopic scale. For better visualization the principal paint colour was then tinted dark green.
j) In the case of the Red Painting Number 4 fingerprint, it was necessary to remove the ‘noise’ created by the offset dots from the reproduction. This was achieved through DIP, particularly through the implementation of FFT[xxvii] following colour segmentation.
k) The characteristics I found equivalent are reproduced below on figure 10. Fingerprint A is from Pollock’s Red Painting Number 4 and B is from Teri’s Find.
Figure 10. Comparison chart of the two fingerprints. Fingerprint A is from the Berlin #4 painting and B is from Teri’s
l) The characteristics are: 1 bifurcation, 2 small island, 3 bifurcation, 4 small island, 5 bifurcation, 6 bifurcation, 7 ridge ending, 8 ridge ending, 9 bifurcation, 10 small island, 11 bifurcation, 12 bifurcation.
m) The correspondence of 12 characteristics is confirmation that the fingerprint in A was left on the painting by the same finger as what left its mark in B.
n) The fingerprint chosen for comparison comes from an undisputed Jackson Pollock. It is recorded and catalogued by O’Connor and Thaw as 304 [Red Painting 4], c. 1950, oil on canvas, 21 ½ x 11 ¾ inches. Its history is recorded as “estate of the artist”.
a) It is not my intention to duplicate research and eloquent analyses already in print, I shall therefore constrain myself to aspects that are of particular interest in this present case. It is difficult, if not impossible, to articulate the sublime, complex and the chaotic that Pollock created and are so visually evident in Teri’s Find. The closest comparison appears to be Number 5, 1948. This painting is also of vertical format and of similar width (with a difference of 1/8 inch).
|Figure 11. Teri’s
Find. Oil, enamel,
aluminum paint on canvas, 66 ¾ x 47 5/8
|Figure 12. Jackson Pollock: Number 5, 1948. Oil, enamel, aluminum paint on fiberboard, 96x48 inches.|
b) Pattern similarity is highly analogous. Both paintings carry final traces of a predominant colour. These appear as the final acts[xxviii] of pouring of the painting process – they are the topmost layer. In both paintings, these trajectories of paint appear as geometric inversions of themselves placed opposite each other in proximity. In Teri’s Find this appears in silver (aluminum paint) and in Number 5, 1984, it appears in yellow.
c) Detail density and complexity are virtually identical. This was measured through digital Image processing and the counting of features in arbitrarily chosen equal areas from both samples.
d) Colour similarity is also highly analogous between the two paintings compared here except for the more generous use of black in Number 5.
Behaviour of paint, mixing and marbling (not
only) on the macroscopic
scale are comparable or identical on both paintings. This is revealing of
the similarity or identity of paint materials used to create both
f) Figure 13 demonstrates just how harmonious Teri’s Find is with Number 5, 1948, on the level of small detail as well. The left half of the figure below is an arbitrarily chosen area from Teri’s Find, digitally stitched to a similarly chosen portion of Number 5, 1948 on the right hand side /not to the same scale, which actually would have worked better/. The two details merged, side by side, create an essentially whole and new ‘composition’.
Figure 13. Montage of two details of equal size and orientation. On the left half Teri’s Find, on the right half Number 5, 1948. The right hand side image is somewhat blurred in comparison as it was reproduced from a book illustration. Selection of colours and their relationship to each other are highly comparable.
An other important comparison demonstrates the highly similar behaviour of paint (figures 13a, 13b and 13c). For this marbling effect to occur, paint materials have to be of similar or identical composition and quantity of solvent added. Figure 13c is of an area 24x36mm. It is clearly seen here that marbling occurs on a large scale especially in the mixing of the brown and yellow paint.
Figure 13a-b-c. On the left, detail of Teri’s Find 24x36 mm. In the middle, an approximately identical surface area from Jackson Pollock: Number 3, 1950, OT 269. The behaviour and form of the paints in both images appear identical. Most importantly, the readiness of black paint to mingle with the yellow illustrate the intentions of the artist as both had to be applied at the same time while the other colours were already quite set or applied later. On the right is a 24x36mm area from Teri's find. The marbling is very visible in this detail and on a scale of centimeters as well as on the macroscopic scale.
g) I came away from my personal experience of Teri’s Find, though subjective then, that it is exactly what it appears to be: a poured painting by Jackson Pollock c. 1947-49. This opinion is strengthened by the results my technical examinations and the eventual forensic evidence presented here.
h) I worked hard to detect any comparative discrepancies in the observed creative process, which in Pollock’s case is probably impossible to imitate, but to date I failed to find any. I tried to uncover any aspect such as use and juxtaposition of colour to rhythmic distribution of poured paint. Again, in comparing Teri’s Find with other Pollocks from the most analogous period (1947-49) I failed to perceive anything that I could argue to be aberrant or inconsistent.
i) Pollock created apparent ‘miniature gems’ when his paint surface is examined in macroscopic detail. A great richness of colour and dynamics are present on the miniature scale caused by the patterns of marbling of flowing enamel blending into another[xxix]. This gives rise to an infinity of tone and detail. This is due to his specific choice of paint material. This effect, dependent largely on the right choice of materials, is clearly detectable on Teri’s Find.
j) Forgeries carry within them the hallmarks of what a forgery is – pretence through attempted imitation to be something else for personal gain. In the case of Teri’s Find there appears to be no evidence of such. I detect no pretension, affectation, signature, overstatement or exaggerated accent on devices typical of Pollock[xxx]. Again, the work of Jackson Pollock is so unique and complex that, and it has been said by noted connoisseurs on Pollock, that his work defies forgery[xxxi] – a view I happen to share.
Peter Paul Biro
Concluded in June, 2002
The conclusions in Part I. were based on information available up to April, 2001.
I had then formed an opinion and maintained a caveat about the fingerprint comparison. I was proven correct about my caution as a problem did develop later with the fingerprint comparison in that it was learned that the comparison print from the Berlin Red Painting #4 was larger than expected. Measurements, as provided by the owner of that piece, showed that quite clearly. Upon further investigation and re-analysis, I came to the conclusion that under special conditions, such as injury or trauma, a finger (or a portion of it) may swell to the dimensions required by the Berlin print. Such trauma can be caused by a sting, insect bite or injury. Notwithstanding, I suggested to the owner and her agents, that I continue to hunt for comparison fingerprints. I expressed to the owner and her agents in the spring of 2001 that I felt uncomfortable with the fingerprint comparison because an exceptional circumstance would have to be invoked and that circumstance could not be supported for lack of any documentary evidence. I strongly urged to continue the search. That proved difficult because there was no further financing in place to carry on the research and the owner's agent(s) did not support my proposition. Teri remained steadfast in her belief that my research would eventually provide results.
I decided to take it upon myself to continue the work on my own time; not being indifferent to the eventual fate of the painting. I felt I had to try to help. So, I arranged a visit to the Pollock-Krasner House being keen to see the many paint cans and tools exhibited there that were used by Jackson Pollock. With the kind assistance of Helen Harrison and Laszlo Biro, I was able to examine, photograph and document everything relevant to this investigation.
I was discouraged by the various people connected with this painting about my chances of finding any fingerprints there. To date, some still claim there are no fingerprints in the Pollock-Krasner House. Interestingly, I photographed 33 in all. Many people do not understand this discipline yet comment on it with impunity. To be clear, it is essential to make the simple distinction between a latent fingerprint, a stamped impression and a plastic impression.
A finger leaves a latent print due to the presence of the fatty substances produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. This is the type of fingerprint we find on objects such as a drinking glass, a window pane etc when left with an otherwise clean finger. A latent fingerprint does not survive for very long.
A stamped impression leaves a mark with whatever contamination may be present on the finger such as ink, paint etc. If you ink your finger on an inkpad it will leave a stamped impression. Depending on the substance deposited, the longevity of the fingerprint is related to the longevity of that substance. If that substance is oil paint, the print may be preserved indefinitely if conditions permit.
When the finger is pressed on top of a soft material such as partly dried paint, putty, wax or similar, it leaves a plastic impression, i.e. it can be seen in relief. The longevity of the impression depends entirely on the nature of the substance it was left in as well as the environment. Oil paint, for example can preserve a plastic impression indefinitely. Some clay objects made thousands of years ago still preserve the impressions of the maker's fingers.
In all, I have succeeded in documenting dozens of fingerprints at the Pollock-Krasner House. Some are large and clear impressions left in paint that was still soft at the time but many also proved useless being small and lacking detail.
Upon my return to the laboratory in Montreal, I processed the images and started studying each one. My considerations in examining the collected evidence were based on the sole condition that the prints must come from surfaces that had to do with the painting process and be of substances that were used in the painting process i.e. paint. The paint cans and the brushes stuck in them as well as the turkey-baster proved the obvious choices. I have also examined the full extent of the floor as well.
In all, 33 partial fingerprints were documented at the Pollock Krasner House, and many more that are too partial to be useful. The number of fingerprints I found was not a surprise to me, rather it is expectable from such circumstances as painting and a painter's studio. On figure 18, I am holding a paint can that was left partially filled with a brush stuck in the now dry paint. Many other paint cans such as this are preserved by the Pollock-Krasner House. This can as well as the brush preserve many fingerprints.
I can only say -- one only needs to take the time to look...
I reproduce two such prints on figure 18 from Pollock's studio.
Figure 18. The author holding a paint can with a brush left in it. This can as well as the brush far right) preserve many fingerprints of the person who handled them. The stem of the brush displays the same core as in the other comparisons. However, it was decided not to use it because of the superposition of another fingerprint. The photo in the middle is of the rubber bulb of a baster. This too preserves fingerprints left with paint. Photographed at the Pollock-Krasner House.
My on-site work was methodical but it was also a spiritual exercise as well, being in intimate touch with the hands of Jackson Pollock.
My focus was on finding fingerprints that preserved a core, the central region of the fingertip, because the Teri's Find fingerprint also appears to have a core. There was very little time, however, to ponder characteristics even though by then I have memorized the entire print form Teri's Find.
I think, now in hindsight, that the reason why I recognized a match on the spot was because I spent so much time with this one fingerprint. Being cautious I deferred making a comment until I had a chance to see the photos and sit down in front of the computer monitors and make the actual comparison - step by step.
The second fingerprint comparison - a match
The comparison print was discovered on a paint can that was evidently used in the painting process. According the Helen Harrison, Director of the Pollock Krasner House, all the paint cans on display belonged to Jackson Pollock and have been preserved as integral to the rest of the studio. The fingerprint from one such can proved to be a match to the fingerprint on Teri's Find.
My search was not only for fingerprints but also to see if I can collect any human hair samples embedded in the now dry paint – mostly on the floor. Since human hair was collected from Teri’s Find on February 27, 2001, and those samples were found embedded in wet paint, the potential for DNA comparison does exist. I was able to find several strands of hair embedded in paint on the floor of the Pollock studio as well. These were carefully removed and stored for later testing. Samples from both sources retain follicles which make DNA work much easier. It cannot be known if the hair belonged to Pollock. If, however, a match can be established between the two sets of samples that would clearly put Teri’s Find in the Pollock Studio. To date, the testing has not been carried out for lack of funding.
|Figure 14. A strand of hair under the painted surface of the floor of the Pollock studio. The hair is the loop above the diagonal white line.||Figure 15. Another strand of hair from another location on the floor. The painting actually preserved the hair. The 'hair 'appears bright which is caused by the reflection of the camera's ring flash. The hair in Figure 14 and 15 are actually beneath the paint's surface.||Figure 16. A strand of hair from Teri's Find. The hair runs vertically in the image. Parts of it are exposed and parts of it are embedded in the paint.||Figure 17. A strand of hair form the verso of Teri's Find. Here the hair is stuck on the canvas' fibers as well as in a small blotch of paint.|
The opportunity arose to examine an imprint of canvas left in the paint of the studio floor. This imprint is of a canvas similar to the one used for Teri's find. Both have a weave of approximately 11 threads per cm. Exact comparison is very difficult as it is not known what degree of stretching or shrinking the canvases sustained over their lifetime.
At this time, it cannot be determined if the canvas used for Teri's find was commercially primed or primed by the artists without performing specific scientific tests. Clearly, visual examination cannot answer that question as Teri's find is painted edge-to-edge and the canvas is covered by the overlaying composition completely, leaving any primed surface hidden from view. Furthermore, Pollock could have used the same priming materials as would have been in commercial manufacture.
Figure 17a. An imprint of canvas
left in a drip of paint on the floor of the
Based on the foregoing, I am personally convinced that Teri's find is indeed a work by Jackson Pollock until the present evidence is disproved. The connection to a fingerprint from a paint can from Pollock's studio as well as to an undisputed work by him is very strong evidence. Outstanding issues are the comparison of pigment samples from Teri's find with paint samples collected at the Pollock-Krasner House as well as the DNA work on the two sets of hair samples.
It is important to bear in mind that the foregoing is not an identification in the legal sense of the word. My aim, for lack of Pollock's fingerprint chart and the fact that he is deceased, was to find as much verifiable evidence that would connect Teri's find with Pollock's studio and other works by him.
Peter Paul Biro
Objections have been raised to this painting's authorship as by Jackson Pollock in June of 2002 in an unsigned, undated commentary without a letterhead by unnamed contributors of IFAR. That report states that" In this case, as in all reviews of works attributed to Pollock, the experts have requested that we not reveal their names" (underlining is mine). The write of the report is also unidentified.
The conclusion of that commentary was " I don't feel that this is a painting by Pollock's hand" . It goes on further to say "I have never seen a Pollock painting made on a canvas such as this. It looks light weight and commercially primed". Another unidentified individual stated "The work under review is painted on pre-primed, cotton duck canvas".
It was further suggested that the painting was painted with acrylic and that would also be odd for Pollock. The commentary states that they had not performed any scientific examinations or testing in the preparation of their opinions as it "was not felt to be necessary". Lastly, I will comment on the statement "Pollock almost always worked within predetermined borders, leaving a significant edge of bare canvas around his paint area".
I was rather puzzled about how such conclusions can be arrived at by visual examination alone. Since these observations served as a basis for a negative opinion it was not immaterial to my client to examine it under scientific rigor. I will take the above commentary point by point though I must emphasize that the purpose of this presentation is not a rebuttal but rather a dissemination.
From the historical perspective, both the alleged use of commercially prepared canvas as well as the use of acrylic should not appear conflicting. To illuminate that, I decided to approach the issues from both the historical and the technical sides. My study revealed the following:
Acrylic paint first appeared around 1936 but did not make a significant impact into the paint market until after WWII, when it became known as latex or emulsion paint, but with varying amounts of P.V.A. In 1949, a range of acrylic paints were marketed called Magna by Leonard Bocour who later formed Bocour Artists Colors Inc. in America. They were sold in solution form dissolved with turpentine and could be mixed with oil paints. Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman and Roy Lichtenstien were associated with using these paints. Magna is no longer made, but Mineral Spirit Acrylic paints are a very similar product.
Paul Cummings in an oral interview with Leonard Bocour at his apartment on Riverside Drive, New York, in 1978 recorded the following discussion. They are excerpted here only as relevant from the Smithsonian Archives on American Art. (Emphasis in blue is mine.)
LB: "Siqueiros became a pioneer of the use of synthetic paint media for public spaces who launched an experimental workshop in New York in 1936, attended by Jackson Pollock and other young Americans interested in learning about such new products as Duco (nitrocellulose-based automotive lacquers and industrial paints."
LB: And he said, "Part of my thesis is that materials influence form." And I know a lot of the guys have told me that without acrylics they could not have gone -- see, in the post-war period, Pollack really started this abstract expressionism and gave it such a shot in the arm. And he used Magna -- all the late Pollocks were painted with Magna.
LB: And who came out with a pound tube?
LB: We did in 1947.
PC: Oh, Permanent Pigments came out with it.
LB: Yes. They called it [inaudible] and they didn't give Permanent Pigments quality, they cut our prices, if you took the cap off oil ran out, and it was a terrible mess. So the big laugh was, at that time, somewhere along the line the acrylics -- now, people think there's just one acrylic. I was the first to make an acrylic resin which could mix with both oil and turpentine.
PC: What started all of that?
LB: Well, it was started because I had a curiosity about it. And I'll tell you the beginning of it. It started about November 1941, some guy walked into the shop -- Tony [inaudible] is his name -- with something like white syrup. I said, "What's that?" He said, "It's an acrylic." Frankly, I'd never heard the term. "What the hell's an acrylic?" He says, "It's a synthetic resin. And being very scientific," he said, "it's swell stuff."
LB: Oh, at least 15 years ago, [reconsidering] -- 10 -- 12 years ago. About '65, '66. Linseed oil does yellow -- white especially. So anyway, they had made this stuff. And that was 1941. Then the War came and it was hard to get materials. After the War I went down to Rohm & Haas -- they made the acrylics, they're the biggest supplier. I told them what I wanted to do, I wanted something compatible with linseed oil because I knew artists were using it. And they came -- they were very helpful to me. They came out with this paint. Well, I want to tell you something: the resistance was enormous. In fact, today, now the paint is really taking on. I spent all my money promoting -- because I think it's great paint. And I came out with sets of paint and. . . See, the word acrylic now is in the language. There's nothing strange about it, it's not a foreign -- like somebody was telling me certain new words like "print-out" "television" -- all the clichés that have come on, you know, due to certain inventions. So, artists would say, "Acrylic -- what's that?" I'd say, "It's a synthetic resin." "Oh, I don't want that shit, I want the real stuff." And I handed out, literally, hundreds of sets --
PC: What as in a set?
LB: Twelve tubes, 12 skinny little tubes. As a sampler.
Pollock and his many paints. In front of him is what appears to
be a plastic container with yellow paint. The container may be
an acrylic jar.
Another important note why Pollock was likely not very picky about his materials is found in: Jackson Pollock, An American Saga by Steven Naifeh, and Gregory White Smith, page 434. The time is December 1942:
"Although Jackson, like many artists, had liberated as much canvas and paint as he could from the WPA store before it closed (wrapping his legs with canvas and striding out with stiff-legged nonchalance), artist's supplies were becoming increasingly expensive as the war interrupted and diverted lines of supply. When he was reduced to shoplifting tubes of paint, even Jackson had to acknowledge that they were 'dead broke'.........."
From researching the literature and through personal communications with Jim Coddington, Chief Conservator, MOMA, James Martin of Orion Analytical, and Susan Lake, Chief Conservator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, all of whom have done work on Pollock's materials, it was not possible to establish an earliest date for his use of acrylic. Therefore, from the documentary evidence, if the paint on Teri's Find contains any acrylic or not would certainly be interesting to learn but either case should be acceptable.
From the excerpts above alone, it does not appear peculiar that Pollock could have used acrylic paint as early as 1948 - the suspected date of Teri's Find. The miscibility of acrylic with commercial paints like Duco would make it a new possibility for Pollock to explore. His documented interest in new materials is also clear from the above excerpts. With that much history, I am satisfied to leave this topic of Pollock's use of acrylic paint as an apparent likelihood.
A number of conservators and specialists have investigated Pollock's painting materials from his paintings. My own work centers around paint samples from Pollock's studio floor. Because these samples come from the accumulation of years of spills and painting, the floor can be approached as an archaeological site. The deposition of strata records a chronology as well as mixes that may never have ended up on a painting. The question of provenance in the case of the floor of course never needs to be raised. Thus it is an open window to understanding just how and why he blended and diluted paint the way he did. Certainly, one must assume that he did what he did because it worked for him, however, one must also recognize that great skill and understanding of his materials was required. Such skills likely came from those who inspired him but it also had to have come from endless experimentation. The studio floor is a fantastic record of that.
The very first sample of paint I tested from the studio's floor turned out to be acrylic. I found oil paint too, wax, metallic paint, sand mixed into paint etc. Some samples are possibly unlike those found on his paintings as they could well be the residue of constituents mixed later. One such example is a dark red color which I found to have no medium at all. (This research is ongoing and will continue outside of the present context of Teri's Find. But, not to loose focus, I will mention only the relevant issues.)
Teri's find was created with a mixture of different types of paint. In all, I examined 7 specimens taken from Teri's find. Each one was chosen because the color appeared unmixed with other paint. Color for color each one exhibited the same optical characteristics when compared to samples taken from Pollock's studio floor. Among the characteristics compared were color, particle size, shape, transparency, reflectivity and birefringence.
I also performed microchemistry on each sample to test what the medium was. In each case I found the samples from Teri's find to be consistent with those from the studio. Another interesting aspect of the comparison of pigments was to find that many samples form Pollock's studio remain quite soft to this day. The brushes in his paint cans can still be moved even though they are submerged considerably. I recall I remarked at the time that the paint samples from Teri's find exhibit this same softness. This may be the result of Pollock's experimentations and diluting paint. He quite possible mixed substances that retarded the drying process.
/ My experience with samples from the studio and Teri's Find is that some paints remain highly soluble. This experience prompts me to take this opportunity to advise anyone considering cleaning a Jackson Pollock or a suspected Jackson Pollock to be very careful. I strongly urge as a caution that such tasks be undertaken only by highly experienced conservators! /
As described below, I also examined the samples for impurities (accidental or intentional) in the samples.
Commercially prepared canvas?
The unsigned report does not provide any illumination about how their assertion arose. I was startled that without any scientific investigation such determinations could be made. It is known that Pollock used whatever materials he could get being impoverished. He is remembered as having bartered his paintings if he could for services and goods. In this context, if he occasionally, or even if only on one occasion got hold of commercially prepared cotton, it should not be a surprise. Whatever the case, I decided to try and determine if indeed Teri's Find was painted on commercially primed material.
I approached the issue from the vantage point of the microscopist. Can any material or particles be found common to the paint, the canvas and the priming so as to obviate the priming having been prepared by the artist?
I collected pigment samples from Teri's Find early in 2001. Recently, I requested and received a small swatch from the canvas' folded edge. I spent many hours studying and identifying the various pigments and associated contaminants on this swatch both on its painted side as well as its verso.
Since I was looking for any unusual particles that could be found in the paint, the canvas and the priming, I chose to work with the many small particles of gold paint I discovered on the sample. The gold particles do not appear to be intentional in nature, its presence can only be observed under a microscope.
As the photomicrographs below demonstrate, I found gold particles adhering to and embedded in the painted surface, adhering to the fabric on the verso, it is present in the priming and also in the back side of the paint layer which is visible in some places between the threads of the cotton.
The common presence of these gold particles clearly demonstrate that the same common pollutant was present before, during and after the painting process. Given that and the fingerprint evidence, when taken together, it is logical to presume that this painting was primed in the context of it artistic creation, and the fingerprint from one of Pollock's paint cans would tie that event to the studio on Long Island.
Being curious as to how this could be further substantiated I began to see if I could find gold particles on any of the samples I collected at the Pollock Krasner House. While there, I collected a spent match that was embedded in the paint on the studio's floor - hence it had to have been used and dropped when Pollock was painting in the studio. Upon examination under the microscope, this match also revealed particles of gold on it that optically appear identical to the ones on Teri's Find. (I refer to 'gold' as a color and not as the metal, the substance is in fact imitation gold as my test revealed).
Figure 19. Particles of gold paint from Teri's Find indicated by red arrows. These particles are on the painted surface. Magnification 44 X. Photomicrograph in reflected light.
Figure 20. Particles of gold paint indicated by red arrows. These particles are found adhering to the cotton canvass well as appearing embedded into the painted layer seen form the verso through the small opening between the weave of the canvas. Magnification 44 X. Photomicrograph in reflected light.
Figure 21. Particles of gold paint indicated by red arrows are embedded in paint that was still wet at that time. These particles appear on a match stick from Jackson Pollock's studios floor found embedded in paint. Magnification 44 X. Photomicrograph in reflected light.
To examine the gesso further for the presence of gold particles, I mounted a small part of the swatch face down on a microscope slide and removed the cotton fibers from it under a stereo microscope. This exposed the underside of the gesso at the surface of the canvas. Anything trapped at this stratum had to be present at or before the time the priming was applied. Since the particles also appear on the top of the finished surface of the painting it is reasonable to suggest that the event of the creation as well as of the preparation of the canvas took place in the same environment.
Figure 22. The priming from its verso with the canvas fibers
removed. Great care was exercised to avoid gold particles
adhering to the canvas getting transferred to the gesso being
exposed. An area was selected where no gold particles could be
|Figure 23. Particles of gold in the priming became visible when the canvas was removed from the paint and gesso layers. Magnification 100x.|
In another excerpt from Jackson Pollock, An American Saga by Steven Naifeh, and Gregory White Smith, page 566 we read: "To preserve the edge of accident that was jeopardized by his improved control, Jackson varied not only color but size, shape and materials as well. He worked on composition board, metal, and cardboard. During the first half of the year, when money was desperately short, he often replaced canvas with paper, stiffened with gesso, tacked to Masonite or mounted on board."
Clearly, critical insistence on strictly confined choices of materials must be unreasonable expectation. My view is that understanding his materials have to be approached from a broadminded stance.
In my first report I presented the observation that "...Pollock’s technique in overextending his pouring movements and thereby the trajectories of flying paint extend beyond the bounds of the canvas. The patterns made on the studio floor are a direct result of this. When cut, the actual painting becomes the ‘central portion’ of the original design. This ‘cropping’ helped, in part, to create the effect of a unified and balanced painting."
In this earlier statement I did not substantiate that argument. To do so now I would simply ask the question -- why his studio floor looks like this - covered with myriad deposits of poured paint? Curiously, where and which are the many paintings whose overextended pouring remain on this floor? Certain very large paintings appear to have a definite unpainted perimeter however. This leads to his necessary accommodation of size. Large pictures may have been approached from the 'inside out' as well, as his footprints can sometime be found on the canvas. Hans Namuth's footage records him standing on a large canvas painting 'from within' as opposed to approaching the canvas exclusively from its perimeters.
As a commentary, I would like to quote from Francis O'Connor" in a statement dating from 1999 which was brought to my attention recently:
"It is a mystery why no one has yet to study the painting floor as an archeological site of Pollock's facture. The ghosts of many if not most of his works between 1947 and 1953 remain there, along with paint samples, and other evidences of his working process. I had thought this exhibition would inspire such research; it has not."
I would like to think that this present research may be the beginning of that very important process.
Photo: Jeff Heathley.
As the result of these latest examinations my conviction that Teri's Find is indeed a work by Jackson Pollock has been further strengthened. The confluence of both direct and indirect evidence proved additive. Since February of 2001, I have not encountered one single material aspect of this painting that would contradict authorship as I ascribed and none (based on scientific examination) have been received.
Peter Paul Biro
Since August of 2002 there have been a number of important and positive development in this research. These are centered around the paint medium and the second fingerprint comparison. Additionally, in the July 2003 edition of Wired Magazine a brief article appeared about this research. The news was quickly picked up by the major networks as well as the international press. The fingerprint comparison also received independent expert confirmation.
Although I had done considerable work on the analyses of the inorganic components of the pigments both from Teri's Find and from the Pollock studio floor there remained a number of important questions as to the identity of the binding media in the samples. To answer these questions I sent my sample collection to Dr. Nicholas Eastaugh, London, UK for FTIR analysis. The principal aim of this part of the investigation was to address the 'acrylic issue' raised by IFAR.
It is important to note first that FTIR is commonly used as a 'fingerprinting' technique, matching unknowns to knowns. This works well here in that I specially wanted to see if the paints on Teri's painting were like those on the Pollock studio floor. As a secondary exercise I was also interested in finding out if any of the binding media were acrylic.
The results are interesting. The overall results of the FTIR analyses done on the samples submitted to Dr. Eastaugh do suggest that the samples from Teri's Find and the samples from the studio floor are comparable.
IFAR's dilemma of acrylic being present on Teri's Find and their doubt that Pollock would have used acrylic on drip style paintings is addressed in this examination. When I took paint samples from the floor of the Pollock studio a number of them were taken from paint marks that were clearly overextended drippings while creating a composition - therefore, not accidental spills. The FTIR analysis of at least one such color provisionally indicated that acrylic was present. This research consequently provides potential evidence that Pollock did indeed use acrylic on drip style paintings and not only on his late works. This result would go against the objection IFAR made against Teri's Find.
Where the results become more tentative though is in exactly what the polymers involved are. To quote Dr. Tom Learner (formerly at the Tate Gallery in London) from his 2004 book on analysis of modern painting materials: '...if FTIR is to be widely applied to analyzing modern artists' materials, a new and relevant library of known standards needs to be built'. The practical analytical problem here is that if such appropriate standards are not available, then it can be difficult to be wholly specific about the compounds present. Ideally such standard databases are built from well-characterized samples of a wide range of materials, a major task in it's own right.
It is also possible to use other analytical techniques to extend FTIR, giving greater detail about the polymers present. Therefore I am currently engaged in an examination of the paint media in Teri's Find using FTIR combined with pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (PY-GC-MS), which is the current best-practice standard for such research. This will allow me to be much more confident about what compounds are present. Additionally I have the opportunity to also apply these techniques to pigment samples from Jackson Pollock material where there is no doubt about authenticity.
In a previous section I explained why I had reservations about the first fingerprint comparison though that comparison is correct. My insistence on finding a simple and effortless comparison led to good results in 2002. Since the recent media interest I have been asked if the fingerprint match has ever been corroborated independently. Because of my confidence that my work was correct and the focus having shifted from fingerprints to paint composition I did not address that until recently. In September, 2003, I presented my work to Staff Sergeant André Turcotte, an expert fingerprint examiner of some thirty years service with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After examining my presentation he concluded that both fingerprints came from the same finger. Staff Sergeant Turcotte has no interest of any nature in this matter.
This research was conducted over 3 years. It was a highly rewarding and illuminating experience. Not only has the painting stood the test of time it has not precipitated any negative feedback from any recognized expert. No study has been undertaken and published with contrary results. Regarding IFAR's current position, the following excerpt by Christopher Reed form the Guardian is revealing: "The American art establishment as enshrined in the New York-based International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR), and the last word on genuine works, disagrees. However, its report was made by a panel of anonymous experts. Their reasons remain obscure, and the foundation declined to answer questions about their process."
I would like to thank Teri Horton for her confidence in my work. I also wish to thank Mr. George Collins, President of www.AskArt.com for his support and encouragement.
Peter Paul Biro
September 12, 2003
My work up to 2006 has established a clear link between the Teri Horton submission and the Pollock studio, more specifically an object in the studio Pollock has handled – the blue paint can. Since Pollock was known to work alone and had no assistants or pupils, the probability of the fingerprint on the blue paint can being Pollock’s is very high. However, it was decided to attempt to find another matching fingerprint - this time on a catalogued painting with a known and undisputed provenance. The attempt met with success in London, England, at the Tate Modern whose collection houses six Jackson Pollock paintings. With the kind permission and help of Dr. Thomas J. S. Learner, Senior Conservation Scientist, Tate Modern, I was able to examine these paintings for fingerprint impressions left in wet paint.
On September 4, 2006, I discovered a matching print on one of Pollock’s paintings entitled Naked Man with Knife and successfully photographed it. The new data now firmly identifies Jackson Pollock as the contributor of the fingerprint on the blue paint can as well as on the Horton submission. It has further helped in clarifying several more characteristics in the fingerprint impressions.
To date, this same fingerprint has been found on six separate objects including this present one. One object is the paint can described here, two additional discoveries, and two catalogued Jackson Pollock paintings entitled Red painting #4, Private collection, Berlin, Germany, catalogued by O’Connor and Thaw as OT303-309 and Naked Man with Knife, catalogued by O’Connor and Thaw as OT60 in the collection of the Tate Modern, London, UK.
The persistence of this fingerprint on three catalogued objects, (Red Painting #4, Naked Man with Knife and the blue paint can in the Pollock studio) points solidly to Jackson Pollock as the fingerprints’ contributor.
On November 9, 2006, I attended the Private Screening of Who The #$&% Is Jackson Pollock at the IFC Cinema in New York City. During that week I gave numerous interviews for the press. I have a number of thoughts and comments regarding that and I believe the following may be helpful especially for the press and the media.
It was my impression that the film did good justice to Teri's story and it was portrayed in a fair manner. I had given many interviews and spoke with hundreds of people during that week. One thing that struck me was how both the press and individuals came and asked me: so you really think this is a Pollock?
A bit shocking and a bit amusing too. That is why I put this statement at the bottom of this report on Teri Horton's painting hoping that people will actually read the foregoing. To make an analogy, it’s like being in a courtroom having heard the verdict. Yet, as people walk out of the courtroom, they ask each other: so you think Pollock did it? Just how much proof is needed after the verdict is out?
The bottom line for me is that most of the educated world lives by science and technology in the 21st Century. However, a small segment of the art market has chosen to stand apart. This is the only reason why Teri's painting has not yet entered the market. While the museum, academic, and legal world has no problems with forensics, a few in the art market do. In the film, there is an art lawyer interviewed who says something to the effect that the art world does not understand fingerprints and that they are being asked to understand something they are not familiar with. Let us pause here for a moment and consider that comment. In the USA, any adult can be summoned for jury duty. As a juror, they are required under the law to evaluate fingerprints and other scientific and forensic data. And, they do. Defendants are jailed and even executed based on such evidence. So, clearly, this is not an issue of understanding or education. Therefore, on the part of this segment of the art market, this is a matter of choice and the avoidance of the issue - and not an issue of education.
Horton's case is not unique. My desk is usually covered with
similar cases where arbitrary pronouncement has set a roadblock to the
paintings' rightful place. I receive several thousand inquiries in a year
with hundreds similar to Horton's. Some of these submissions end up with
negative findings, some inconclusive and some with confirmation. In almost
all cases however, the work previously done was either minimal and
superficial even though the art work, if confirmed, could represent millions
in value. Many are failed authentication attempts that owners conducted in
an unprofessional manner, got some people mad and reached a dead end. My
task is often to try and undo the damage done through uncovering overlooked
I have been warned long ago that science prying into the closed world of connoisseurship is likely to make me many enemies. When I asked why, I was told: you are taking their “cookies” away from them. Of course, that is not what I am trying to do. I see my work as an important and logical part of the authentication process. Connoisseurship has to remain part of that process. It is of course very hard to collaborate in a hostile environment but time will change that and again, those who dismiss science in this regard are part of a very small market segment.
That a work of art in not authentic
is sometimes determined by one single factor such as an anachronistic
pigment on a painting. Authenticity on the other hand is a confluence of
many aspects of a work of art gathered together from numerous disciplines.
Therefore, to reduce the authentication process to only one type of
examination such as relying on the "eye" alone, while dismissing others, in
my view, is a very precarious approach.
One of the authors of the Pollock catalogue raisonne was recently interviewed in the December, 2006 issue of Architectural Digest. He essentially reduces modern science to a "song and dance" and relates it to "chicanery", referring to technology and science as "toys". In effect, he is not only throwing out 21st century science and forensics but also our entire legal system, that so heavily relies on it, thus casting a dark shadow over the way authentication is done by the "eye" alone.
It also should be mentioned that the point system in fingerprint identification has been out of use for many years. I am often asked "how many points compare on the Horton painting?" My answer is always the same. The point system is no longer used and there is no set minimum number of characteristics required for an match. The unsigned IFAR report Horton received dismissed the fingerprint comparison on the grounds that there were not enough points for a match. They did not check to see that their information about the point system was outdated and rejected the painting. This is just one such case that landed on my desk.
In a recent Internet posting in the New York Times Movie section, Mr. Hoving makes two remarks why he believes he is right in rejecting this painting. He dismisses the fingerprint evidence and states that Horton's painting was executed in acrylic. He has likely not read the above Report which addresses all these issues. There is only one color on Horton's painting that is an acrylate. How Mr. Hoving came to determine that all colors on the painting are acrylic is a mystery as he has done no scientific analyses to arrive at that conclusion. He also mentions that the canvas is commercially sized. I have disproven that notion in the above Report. Pollock's fingerprints do indeed exist on his paintings and on his implements. Mr. Hoving's comment is posted at http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/11/15/movies/15poll.html.
A number of other film reviews have appeared recently referring to fingerprints as a "myth" ( http://www.nysun.com/article/43536 ). I can only smile at such comments as fingerprints are used routinely for identification the world over both in the legal and the commercial sectors. What strikes me is how some journalists do so little research for their articles and use the film as the full and final basis of their reporting. The film is already dated in several ways. Horton's painting is indeed supported by some Pollock experts, hence the statement that it is rejected by the entire art world is false. The film is only a sampling of the authentication work done. The entire report is on this web site and has been available to the public since 2001 and to this date no data contrary to my findings has been received.
A further objection has been raised in http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/movies/ny-etart4977694nov17,0,726878.story?coll=ny-moviereview-headlines by the writer that "The canvas has drips of acrylic paint that artists didn't begin using until well after Pollock's death in 1956. Biró insists that the same materials spattered the floor of the artist's studio - never mind that the stains might have been made much later by Lee Krasner, Pollock's wife and a successful painter in her own right."
The writer of the Newsday article is of course totally unaware that the studio floor was covered up with tiles in 1953 - during Pollock's lifetime. Krasner's studio was in the house, she did not work in the barn studio while occupied by Pollock. The tiling was only recently removed to expose the original floor. Therefore, Krasner could not have contributed acrylic to the original floor because it was covered up. In essence, the original studio floor was preserved for posterity in its virgin state since 1953, three years before Pollock's death. (for reference see: Such Desperate Joy, Edited by Helen Harrison, page 186, Thunder's Mouth Press).
The reason I have promoted the forensic approach to
authentication for over two decades is because currently existing
'certificates of authenticity' are for a large part based on opinion alone
and lack basic technical and scientific data. It is therefore safe to assume
that many would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. I am not in the opinion
business and I believe that when seeking the truth we have to create the
conditions so the evidence can come to light - in essence to allow evidence
and therefore that work of art to speak for itself.
This leads to my final comment: you just don't dismiss science and forensics in the 21st Century...
November 17, 2006
Peter Paul Biro
Links to some some articles:
[iii] For further reference, consult http://www.birofineartrestoration.com/in_the_news.htm.
[iv] Biro, P.P., Michaelsen, P., Smith, N.W., Ebersole, T. W.: Australian Ice Age rock art may depict Earth's oldest recordings of shamanistic rituals. Mankind Quarterly. Vol. 41 No. 2, pages 131-145
[v] Biro, P.P., Ebersole, T.W., Felder, M., Jensen, I.B., Michaelsen, P., Smith, N.W., & von Liptak, T. (in prep.): Preservation potential of the Bradshaw rock art system, Kimberley, NW Australia.
[viii] Also supported by solid fingerprint evidence. The material was introduced to the scholarly world at the Courtauld Institute in 1998, at the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Toronto, 1998, and at the British School, Rome in 1999.
[ix] My analytical techniques were presented internally at a training course at the FBI. I am not permitted to go beyond that except to note that my work has been used for reference and teaching.
[x] A commercial paint that forms a smooth, hard and usually glossy film. Enamels may be of a range of glosses and can be usually latex or alkyd. Consumers often associate the term with alkyd, so-called oil-based products. The term’s original meaning comes from enameled art works where a glass-like substance is melted on a substrate, usually metal and has a high gloss surface.
[xi] “Pollock’s liking for aluminium paint, which he applies freely straight out of the can. He feels that by using it with ordinary oil paint he gets exciting textural contrast”. From: Jackson Pollock, A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings and Other Works, Francis Valentine O’Connor and Eugene Victor Thaw, Yale University Press, 1978, p133.
[xii] FTIR (Fourrier Transform Infrared Microscopy) is likely the best technique for this.
[xiii] This is conjectural.
[xiv] “My painting does not come from the easel. I hardly ever stretch a canvas before painting. I prefer to attach the canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface.” Jackson Pollock: Possibilities I, 1947/48.
[xv] Sample #4 was extremely small and was not collected.
[xvi] We do know that Pollock had dark hair. DNA testing could determine if the sample belonged to him.
[xvii] As DNA analysis may be done on the hair samples in the future, it was decided not to remove them from the sample vials until needed.
[xviii] Personal correspondence via e-mail from Bill , April 2, 2001.
[xix] Jackson Pollock, A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings and Other Works, Francis Valentine O’Connor and Eugene Victor Thaw, Yale University Press, 1978.
[xx] “Although his paintings hung in five museums and 40 private collections, many were gifted to those who had been kind to him, and others had been bartered for goods and services” From: Jackson Pollock, A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings and Other Works, Francis Valentine O’Connor and Eugene Victor Thaw, Yale University Press, 1978, p.132.
[xxi] Acronym for digital image processing.
[xxii] Flying Fox. www.mXac.com.au
[xxiii] Jackson Pollock, Kirk Varnedoe with Pepe Carmel, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Harry N. Abrams, N.Y., 1998, Exhibition Catalogue.
[xxiv] From Varnedoe, ibid, Untitled [Red Painting 1-7] c. 1950, oil on canvas, Private collection, Berlin, O’Connor, Thaw, cat. no. 303-309.
[xxvi] This represents ‘point value’ not the number of characteristics.
[xxvii] Fast Fourrier Transform. The Fourrier transform is a calculation that is employed in many areas of science and engineering. It is used to transform an analog signal into an equivalent set of sine waves, so that spectral analysis operations can be done. Each sine wave can be described by two numbers: amplitude and a phase, or alternatively a real part and an imaginary part. It can be easier and more useful to analyze or modify a signal after it has been transformed into the frequency domain. It is particularly useful in filtering regular noise patterns.
[xxviii] It is most difficult to find the proper word for this. It is about as difficult as it would be to describe the myriad physical forces acting on the flowing paint in this most radical artistic process.
[xxix] This was achieved by the addition of the right amount of solvent.
[xxx] A forger could not create the innate flow and rhythm of patterns and combination of colors that came naturally only for Pollock. His painting ‘ritual’ arose from his unique personal temperament, intellect and psyche – each determining factors that cannot be designed at will without the design effort showing through in an actual attempt to imitate. Again, the insurmountable difficulties to imitate are likely to render the proposition as futile and unprofitable for a forger who invariably would seek the largest possible gain at the least effort.