Fake or Fortune?

René Mehrer


You come home with your brand new treasure, only to get it out of the frame and it looks... off. Don't despair! This happens from time to time, even to the best of us. 

I picked up these two Sam back prints at a second-hand shop a while ago. As you can see the signatures are slightly different on each piece, the subject matter is typical Sam Black, and the size is spot on. I should have known the light grey title to the left was suspicious, however, I didn't have a loupe with me and the prints were behind non-glare glass. 

I brought them home, took them out of the frame and looked at them with a loupe. Even with the loupe, it's not easy to tell by the print alone, but that writing in the lower left hand corner is pixelated, badly, like a Lichtenstein painting. 

I'd read that there were some Black reproductions out there, but I've never come across any information on them. Like why would Black would sign reproductions, especially when woodcuts are already a reproductive medium? I keep them though, as a curiosity and a learning experience, (and luckily I didn't pay too much for them). 

Some tips and tricks to identifying fake from real:

  • If you have a jeweller's loupe or small magnifying glass, carry it with you, this can be invaluable for checking signatures and edges. 
  • Beware of non-glare glass, it's hard to see through clearly, especially with a loupe.
  • Check the paper quality, is it too light? Or textured like an art card? 
  • Check the back of the canvas or paper for any marks or writing that might indicate it's authentic. 
  • Research your piece if you think it might be fake - start with the size. Is yours the same size as the catalogues list? 
  • Lastly, if you feel you might be dealing with a dubious piece, ask if you can take it out of the frame for further inspection. Some people will allow you to, some won't.

Check my Sam Blacks out for yourself below. Do you have any additional info? Have you ever bought something that turned out to be fake? I'd love to hear your stories!

Sam Black
Sam Black

A little bit about Arthur Burchett

  Arthur Burchett, Mrs Affleck, 1922  oil on cedar, 12" x 6.5"

Arthur Burchett, Mrs Affleck, 1922
oil on cedar, 12" x 6.5"

I found this small painting many years ago at a local auction, it was a side profile of a woman painted on a cedar panel signed in pencil on the lower right with a monogram and dated 1922. I had no idea of who the artist was, but written in pencil on the back was "Portrait of Mrs. Affleck, Duncan , B.C." along with what looked like the artist's name but it was partly obscured. I turned to Gary Sim's incredible database British Columbia Artists and took what I could discern from the signature and through a process of elimination was able to narrow it down to Arthur Burchett, which I later corroborated with further research online. Through this additional research I was able to discover a number of other examples of his work and extensive biography and a link to his great granddaughter, Lisa Hemeon who also an artist. His had a fascinating life and it really shows how small the world once was and how even then, artists living in the back woods of the British Empire were connected and relevant to the greater art world. I hope you enjoy this new discovery as much as I do and I hope you might have even more information and images we can add to his profile. 

Paul Crawford