Artists Page ---

Great Canadian Art Fakes

William Goodridge Roberts (1904-1974)
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
The Gap in the Trees, Goodridge Roberts
Orig. oil - Size - 16" x 20" vertical
Turned Up In - London, ON
Signed on front, inscribed on back "With best wishes, G Roberts"
Goodridge Roberts: How many art lovers have wondered, how do I know that the painting I buy is not a fake, when there is so much forged art around?

A good rule of thumb to remember is that there is as much good art around as there are good stocks. You wouldn't buy chancy stocks, why buy chancy paintings. So, just like you invest in blue ribbon stocks guaranteed to be good performers - like Nortel and JDS Uniphase - so for your art selections, pick only blue ribbon artists, like highly renowned Canadian Painter Goodridge Roberts whose work shows up at every Joyners, Heffels, Walkers, and Sotheby's auctions.

Recently a long time antique dealer did just that when she received a Goodridge Roberts painting from a trusted and reputable picker who specializes only in paintings - no other antique bric a brac.

She gladly accepted the painting, which came from a good source - apparently it had been in a family who had received it directly from Goodridge Roberts himself sometime in the 50s.

In fact Goodridge had written across the back in his own hand, "With best wishes, Goodridge Roberts" in red ink.


Would that every painting came from such an expert art picker, and with such a bullet proof - direct from the artist himself - provenance for a painting. There would be a lot fewer disappointed art buyers out there.

The antique dealer found a buyer, but one who wondered aloud, about proof that the art, and the signature were really from the hand of Goodridge Roberts. The dealer being a totally honourable sort, in a business not known for many of those, offered right away, to take it to the Roberts Gallery (no relation) in Toronto for an evaluation.

Trouble is the Gallery refused to come down on the side of fake or fortune - it left the painting firmly on the fence.

But recognizing the ethical dilemma of a dealer who obviously cared for values beyond the quick and questionable sale, offered her the phone number of the son and wife of Goodridge Roberts in Montreal, so she could verify her painting with them.

Being a passionately honest sort, she drove her painting all the way from Niagara to Montreal, just to verify it for a buyer.

She was blown away by the hospitality she received from the family experts who welcomed her into their home just to give her an evaluation of the painting she was so keen on.

But the visit was a downer, in other respects!


She learned immediately that her Goodridge Roberts painting was a fake. A good painting, but definitely not a work by Goodridge Roberts, and not signed, or inscribed, by Goodridge Roberts either.

She learned:

First: Goodridge Roberts never did vertical 16 x 20s; all his 16 x 20s were horizontal, without exception.

Second: Though he signed the backs of paintings for friends exactly like this one, "With best wishes from Goodridge Roberts," he never used red ink.

Third: The letters on the signature on the front are far too vertical. Goodridge angled his letters much more strongly, forward and down, as if they were falling on their nose.

Fourth: The canvas had a whitish smudge area to the left of the current signature; probably another name had been there and had been removed. See, how on the wide picture, top, the whitish area stands out. Clearly not the painting work of the artists, but someone who used cleaner too vigorously to wipe out a previous signature. Repainting would probably have made a more glaring contrast than mere erasing would.

Fifth: The signature - upon examination with a loupe - had been applied over the varnish that covered the painting.

Sixth: The paint on the surface was very thinly applied; Goodridge applied his paint more thickly and vigorously (called impasto) than did the artist who painted this forgery. (See paint surface below)

If a family expert says the signature right is a fake, then what about the others below, all sold by leading Canadian art auctions.

Can you spot the real ones from the fakes?

More Signatures to Ponder from a Great Canadian Painter
The impasto technique - layering on the paint like paste - which made the penniless Goodridge poorer in his early years, is shown clearly in this pic.
Left, the shy guy, in a self portrait, who would probably never have guessed that art, which he often had trouble selling in his lifetime, would become the target of forgers, once he had passed on.

The moral of the story is, that fake art is all around you; it can come at you from a store, a dealer, an auction, a house clearance, or even from "a family friend of the artist."

Before you buy, just remember, just like a stock broker won't return your money for a bogus performing stock, neither will an auctioneer return a painting you believe/suspect/find out, is a fake!

"Hey," they say, "We're not experts. We do the best we can. We thought it was a GR. Sorry if you believe it's not. But it's your buy. It's beautiful! And looks just like it's by him. If I were you I would keep it. Or if not, sell it to somebody else. You don't have to repeat the gossip you heard about it."

Have a Heart! You must really try to see the art dealers' point of view. They're already preparing for their next auction; they can't keep quibbling with every dissatisfied customer who thinks they have a fake!

I mean how could they ever make a living if they had to verify every single painting with a bona fide expert? Or take back every fake they ever sold!

After all, they say, it's easy to tell the fakes from the real ones. No need to check with the experts elsewhere. Our "in-house" guys are pretty good, and getting better all the time! That making fewer mistakes all the time...

Hopefully you are now reassured...

Goodridge Roberts 1904-1974

Goodridge Roberts had a painting career from the late 1920s to the late 1960s, which established him as one of Canada's finest artists during the "Golden Age of Canadian Art," the first half of the 20th century.

Goodridge was a painter's painter; he is virutally unique among Canada's great painters in that he did not favour one kind of artistic expression over another; he painted the three traditional fields of painting - landscapes, portraits, and still lifes - in equal numbers, with equal passion, and with equal success.

Goodridge Roberts was born into a prominent Canadian family full of accomplished literary achievers. As a youngster he was dragged by a well-to-do family to live in England, and France, as well as in Montreal.

From an early age he wanted to be a painter. In the 1920s he studied in art schools in Montreal and then in New York, learning his craft from leading painters of the time.

He moved to Ottawa to teach art in 1930, but lived variously over the next few years, at Fredericton NB, Kingston, ON, and Montreal. He painted in oil when he could, but the expense - he like to pile on the paint thickly - forced him into often using watercolours in the 1930s. His frequent model was his wife Marion.

His first financial success came in 1943 when 48 of his paintings sold at the Dominion Gallery's retrospective of his work, in Montreal. But sales tapered off and he had to teach art to pay bills.

In 1943 he was hired to become a war artist in the Royal Canadian Air Force. By war's end the stress of it all proved too much and his marriage ended.

In the late 40s and 50s, his art sales sometimes supported him; sometimes not. Teaching helped pay bills.

He was married again in 1954, to Joan Carruthers Carter. In 1952 he was elected into the Royal Canadian Academy. His art was exhibited at Expos 67 and at the Centennial Exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada.

Goodridge had tough last years as advancing age, and his incurable shyness, undermined his self confidence in his art and in himself.

Sales and recognition for this Great Canadian artist were slow as the stampede of the wealthy - orchestrated by art dealers - was on for his contemporaries, the members of the Group of Seven, to whom he was an equal - at least - in talent and final body of work.

It's that the shy Goodridge was not a Groupie.

Insight Canada

Shush is the reason there are so many fakes and forgeries in Canadian art.

Goodridge Roberts - like many Great Canadian Artists - suffered as an artist because he was not backed by a good sales concept.

After all, Goodridge, being a one man band, had only so many paintings that could be sold. The Group of Seven - now there's a sales concept with legs - had enough to go around for all the art dealers; so the chorus grew, and gathered converts.

Shush of course is at the root of it all - shop and showoff!

Art patrons come almost exclusively from the wealthy sections of society, those with lots of money. Their whole lives centre around the simple concept of shop and showoff. It's all about primping and preening by people who aren't sure of themselves. Or if they are, who want to make sure other people know it by pushing it in their face.

On the highway it's a speeding Lexus, Rolls, or brash Beemer - the maid gets the Mercedes. In the living room its the art du jour. What is au courant today, and will leave your friends green with envy...

It's about conspicuous consumption; it's definitely not about mental challenges, engagement, or exertions.

A gloriously fertile field of opportunity for High Society FARTS (Fake Art Reproduction Tarting-up Specialists.)

Male art connosiserus have had enough mental strain at the office, making the money they now have to spend; at home they want to be in relax mode. The same mode their trophy wives - whether #1, 2, 3, or 4 - have been in mostly, most of their lives, having devolved all their mental exertions to others: to a nanny or private school to raise their kids, a designer to pick their outfits, a home decorator to picks their curtains, a personal trainer who picks their excercise regimen, or is it which positions are best, and an art consultant who suggest which paintings they should buy.

It doesn't leave them with much to do.

Shush now; stop the sniggering. We mean except shop and show!

Most people have a hard time remembering any names at the best of times - especially among those of advancing years, who tend to have the requite disposable income needed to buy art. Seven names is at the upper limit of most art patrons. So Group of Seven was a great number concept, until someone added several more as coming and going members. And nobody could remember which three or four they were. Who the ins and outs are is often the leading topic of intellectual discourse at societal teas; and since memories are fleeting, the topic has legs for years and years as new arriviste members are handed the latest delicacy, perhaps a crêpe flattulouse...

The art patrons - never known for being mentally too tuned in at the best of times - chanted along. "Oh, yeah! The Group. Great stuff, isn't it. I got some Group of Seven stuff. You got any?"

"Not yet, but the dealer I spoke to yesterday said he could get me a good one. Lister I think he said. I remember telling myself, now I've got to remember, it rhymes with listerine. Or ... wait a minute. I believe it was Hemorrhoid Watson? I'm trying to recall now.... Did he say Hemmer Watson or Horrid Watson...? Oh sorry, it was Thomson he said. That's it. It's all coming back to me now. Lord Thomson I think he said. Or was it George? So many names , I can't remember exactly. Some kind of Thompson anyway. He's a member of the Group. Yes the Group is great! I'm already drawing up a guest list for the homecoming party when we install it over the Turkish divan, right under Joyce Wieland's Lips, and beside the large McElchran trio of bronzes I bought last month. Adrian has already said she would come; and Hillary can hardly wait too. She says she's a Groupie too; tee hee!"

More Great Canadian Art from Goodridge Roberts

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000 & 2005