Boer War Page 12d

Baden-Powell Art Fakes

As a public service, to prevent eager collectors from being duped by unscrupulous antique dealers
we offer our Fake Pages.
F J Waugh: Boer War Artist

One of the great Victorian artists of the time was FJ Waugh, who, along with Caton-Woodville, painted among the most memorable images of the action during the Boer War. During the days before television and radio, his images "were" the Boer War for countless generations of people throughout the British Empire. (Left a small portion of a larger action image he painted.)

Of special note is his trademark signature on the bottom right, and above, from another print. Artistically beautiful, simple too. Easy to fake, right? Guess again......

It's a special day indeed, when one of Waugh's original works of art turns up, as one recently did on ebay.

Below is a recent ebay listing on the auction site brought up when you type in "Boer War." You may hit the link to show the actual original listing.
The following 14 lots are part of a BOER WAR collection built up over many years

A good original Boer War portrait/painting of Baden Powell. The painting is signed by the well-known Boer War artist "F J WAUGH" & dated 1900. The 14 X 18 inch picture has biographical details on the reverse. Baden Powell was the defender of Mafeking and also a Scout leader. In its old original frame, a few marks but general good condition.

Questions: Does the painting, far right, really look, in any way, like BP to you? Compare with photos of him actually taken in 1900, all within months of the same year this portrait was supposed to have been painted. Is this, like the ebay dealer's ad says, "a good, original Boer War portrait/painting of BP." Is it good? Is it BP? Original to what?

Is it really "signed by Waugh," as the antique dealer so strongly popates? Compare the portrait with that of the Waugh trooper above. Note how he excells at showing every wrinkle possible, on helmet, face, and tunic, to help give a strongly realistic portrait.

Or is this just a con job from a dealer, who pretends ignorance and defends himself with the shop worn excuse of the scoundrel, "Well that's what I was told!" or "Well I'm not really a Boer War expert!?"

You be the judge.....

Smoooooth: A great likeness you say?

Ok, then, for starters check: the hat, the eyebrows, the laugh lines, all those BP 1900 wrinkles and lines .....

Need more? Look at BP's "open car door" ears, his wide and open, instead of deep set and close-set eyes, the pointy moustache ......

Where are the campaign ribbons, the shoulder pips of rank, that are in all BP's portraits? Why would a portrait artist sell the Hero of Mafeking short and paint him in a private's uniform, stripped of rank, status, and decorations?

So then who is this "smooth as a baby's bottom" portrait of? (Answer below)

Fake???: Another intriguing question might be, who painted it? The dealer is unequivocal in wanting you to believe it's Waugh. Let's look at that signature, visible at the bottom right of the framed pic top, and blown up below left.

Compare it with two other Waugh signatures taken from prints published at the time.

Plea of the Young (CIV) Volunteer: 

"Who am I, and why would someone make me someone I'm not, and God forbid,
fake an artist's
signature to me as well?"

Compare the Styles: The dealer offers a totally slanted signature, at no less than 45 degrees off the horizontal. Of the scores of Waugh signatures we've seen published in Cresswell and Wilson - go check yourself - this is the only one not totally parallel to the image frame. The antique dealer's own print signature conforms to this standard, and far from proof of Waugh's signature, offers evidence that should make him question it's authenticity.

Look at the genuine Waugh print top, and compare it with the portrait. Does it look like the same artist at work? Is his treatment of a figure the same? Is the painting style the same, the assembly of detail, wrinkles and lines that bring a portrait or painting to life? Is the medium used to paint, the same one as used to sign his name to the finished work, signifying "There, it's done. I've signed off on this." Or did he - or perish the thought, did someone else - come back later and add his signature with whatever pen he could find?

What provenance is there that this is indeed a Waugh? The dealer offers none whatever. Just his say so.....

Since we don't have the dealer on our side, let's use common sense and solve the puzzle.

Beautiful: Compare the look of the overall signature.....

Note what a thing of beauty Waugh's signatures always are. There is a graceful unity to each, and a symmetry between the two, that can only come from within, from someone who paints it effortlessly because he has done it a thousand times before.

Graceful: Note how beautifully the letters flow together and the graceful strokes to his lines.

Note how the way he paints his name results in an optical illusion that's impossible to fake. It's as if there is a heavy line that his name sits on. But it's not really there at all ...

Note especially the bottoms of the F and J. They are fat, and dynamic, were obviously painted quickly, and occur because of the unique way that Waugh used his brush. It is hard to duplicate by others.

Note the graceful line just perched on top of the tips of the "W."

Finally look at the graceful slash above the date. Done swiftly and effortlessly, it creatively ties the name and date into an artistic whole.

The Clumsy Klutz: Note how totally off the horizontal the signature is... Why, this one time, should Waugh slant his name differently from all his other proven signatures? Note how this signature is clumsily "stretched" horizontally, while Waugh's letters are in fact gracefully stretched vertically.

Look at the laborious way this signature is put together. Look at all the stops and starts of the pen tip and the indecisive wiggle to the lines that results. Where is the grace that comes from conviction - instead of the jiggliness that comes from copying. Where is the confidence that comes from knowing you are FJ Waugh, and proud of it? Why do the letters look like they were all carefully done one at a time? Why is the final "h" fat and blockily formed? Waugh's final "h" is always graceful, small and tight. And what about the skinny bottoms on the F and J, and the lack of that illusory line that Waugh's letters seem to sit so bewitchingly on? Look at how the clumsy slash on the "W" has slipped down below the tips of the letter and obliterate it instead of setting it off artistically.

And what of that final clumsy slash over the date, done with workmanlike diligence, and which, by touching all four digits, comes dangerously close to oblitering them instead of tying them artistically together like Waugh does.

The Awful Truth: Over half a million young men from the British Empire served in South Africa during the Boer War. All of them had photos taken before they left and had more made in South Africa.

Many had portraits painted before they left for the front. Their families might never see them again. "How thrilling it would be," wrote one young woman, "to have a beau killed at the front."

Right is one wonderful tempera painting of a Canadian volunteer who went (more pics of it elsewhere on the site). This wonderful portrait was painted by a master artist who did not sign his name.

The ebay portrait above too - like almost all of the thousands of photos and pictures that remain from the war - very likely also started out by not being named, signed, or labelled. Hence the signature now is in a pigment different than that the artist used originally to paint the portrait - an odd thing in itself. (Ok, so he came back years later and signed it by request!)

Overheard at the Shop: Luckily we have eager antique dealers who are willing to set the record straight and give names to portraits that would otherwise be just nameless faces from the past. "Let's see now, " you can hear one mulling, "That looks like Baden-Powell to me. Doesn't that look like a Boy Scout hat to you? Get some of that mouldy paper we got in the bottom of that trunk last week and type up his bio on that and put it on the back. It'll look perfectly ancient."

The Faceless Volunteer
A typical Boer War tempera portrait
- without a name or artist's signature
until an antique dealer gets a hold of it
Waugh - hooo! "Oh, and while you're at it. We need an artist's signature on that as well. It'll help it sell. Go to Wilson or Cresswell to pick a good artist. Don't do Caton-Woodville. Too many people know him. Pick one with a simple signature. Try Waugh. He's easy to fake. Then we'll put it on ebay and reel them in."
Conlusion: Send the person who made this signature back to forgery school. An anonymous Tommy Atkins portrait has now been defaced with a counterfeit signature so clumsy that not even Hugh Trevor-Roper and his friends would be fooled by this. Don't you be. And watch out for this antique dealer's other auctions. He might try this again, unless you inform him that this just won't wash...

There are no excuses for this kind of behaviour. He - nobody else - told the internet world his auction item was "a good original Boer War portrait/painting of Baden Powell." He said "The painting is signed by the well-known Boer War artist "F J WAUGH" & dated 1900."

He could have done these simple tests himself. He could have amended his listings when alerted about the problems with these items. He ignored the warnings. He persisted, instead, in perpetuating the obvious con. All because of Greeed..

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