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A Cautionary Tale of Copies

Jean Muehlen 1896 art gallery art lovers authenticity blog bronze art bronze sculptor bronze sculpture bronze technique design Frederic Remington lost wax process master sculptor original richard stravitz sculpting bronze sculpture sculpture art shop local stravitz stravitz art gallery stravitz galleries talent va beach virginia beach virginia beach art

There is an old Michael Keaton movie entitled, “Multiplicity”. Keaton’s character is tired of never having enough time to enjoy his family and personal life, as well as perform constructively at his job. To solve this dilemma, he decides to clone himself. This works out quite well until his clone decides that he also needs assistance, so HE CLONES HIMSELF. Then it happens AGAIN and now there are three clones plus the “original”. Since this movie is a comedy, you can image how each clone becomes less defined with
each copy so that the last one is not even sure where to apply his shaving cream for his morning ritual.

This is a great example of the disasters that can occur with any form of copying, from the color clarity of a print to the lack of precision in a frequently cast sculpture. Be it paintings, sculpture, photography -- the originality tends to suffer dramatically.

Recently I did an online search for work by the famous artist Frederic Remington (1861 – 1909). His specialty was bronze sculptures and paintings of the Old American West. You would probably recognize his work even if the name does not ring a bell. Guess where I found his work? Sam’s Club Online for $280. I also found an unending list of pieces for sale using his name from hundreds of dollars to several thousand. Many items are for sale on eBay, with the claim that they are in the “Remington style”, AND his name was engraved on the base. No other documentation. You can find everything from belt bucklesto jigsaw puzzles!

If you look at the Frederic Remington Art Museum website, they are quick to point out that there have been many unauthorized copies of Remington’s work over the years (the molds were all destroyed after the death of his wife in 1919). Forgeries began soon after. The Remington Museum maintained copyrights until they expired in the 1960’s. Evidently there is no law governing the manufacture of the multitude of copies. This site assures us that the cost of an original Remington is no less than $75,000 and that they can account for the location of each of them. There is also a section for folks to send their information to find out if they have an original or to check on a work they may wish to purchase.

To identify an authentic Remington bronze sculpture, look for a foundry marking clearly cast in the bronze base and the edition number 1, 2, 3 etc. (not 1/100, etc.). No other base, such as stone or wood, is added. (Many copies have marble bases). It is worth noting that COPIES DO NOT APPRECIATE IN VALUE.

How do these frauds come to be, you might ask? Just like Michael Keaton, these wonderful pieces began to be “cloned”, mainly for someone’s profit. Over the years the paintings have been copied and the sculptures have been reproduced in many ways. Some may have had a cast made from an original, others may have been copied in clay and then molded and cast into bronze, resin, plastic. And just like the Keaton clones, each copy becomes less and less precise and more bastardized. (Sorry. I don’t like that word, but it’s true). It is a sad commentary that art can be copied and sold with no consideration of the artist or his/her estate. Unfortunately, some folks just want a bargain, and they can certainly find them in stores, online and at auctions. Remember the term “Buyer Beware” and do your homework before investing in any type of art.

We at the Richard Stravitz Galleries are proud of our original Stravitz bronze sculptures. Each of them is properly documented and signed and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity. The artist is alive and well and always available to discuss his work. The stories behind his work are often as fascinating as the piece itself. What better verification can you ask for?

For more details on original Remington’s see: Icons of the West: Frederic Remington’s Sculpture by Michael Greenbaum

An interesting website is: (look for “Everyone has a Frederic Remington for Sale” by Mark Chervenka)

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