BOSTON (Reuters) – A Harvard study has raised new doubts over the authenticity of three paintings previously thought to be works by abstract artist Jackson Pollock, weighing into a simmering controversy in the art world.
The report by the Harvard University Art Museums, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, suggested the three paintings may have employed paints not commercially available until after the painter’s death.
They were among 32 works discovered by Alex Matter, a filmmaker whose parents knew Pollock. Matter found the paintings among the possessions of his late parents in 2002 and began showing them publicly in 2005 after authentication by Ellen Landau, a Pollock art historian.
Matter has said the paintings had been first stored in a Manhattan boiler room and then for nearly three decades in a warehouse in East Hampton, Long Island, not far from where Pollock had his studio and was killed in car crash in 1956.
The researchers at Harvard’s Straus Center for Conservation said they analyzed the three as a diverse sample of the 32 works. They did not identify the three paintings by title but by coded names.
The technical analysis of the works found a red paint that “has only been marketed for a few decades” and a brown paint that was not developed until the early 1980s — long after Pollock’s death.
The report also found red and orange paints that were not industrially produced before 1953, while the works were thought to be painted between 1946 and 1949.
“Some pigments raised questions about the proposed date of creation of the three works the research team analyzed,” the researchers concluded. But the study did not go as far as definitively saying they were fakes.
In addition, the report found that two of the works were on media that were “most likely not available until 1962 or 1963,” while the binding medium used to create the silver paint on the third painting “in all likelihood was not commercially available until the 1970s.”
The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, set up under the will of Pollock’s widow, painter Lee Krasner, said it was examining the report in detail.
“We are continuing to coordinate with scholars to reach a consensus as to the authenticity of these paintings,” said the foundation’s executive president, Kerrie Buitrago.
Narayan Khandekar, who worked on the report as senior conservation scientist at the Harvard conservation center, was unavailable for comment.
Last year, a computer analysis of the 32 works by Richard Taylor at the University of Oregon Physics Department concluded that the works were likely fakes after studying them with a technique that looks for recurring geometric patterns.
In November, The New York Times newspaper reported that a painting by Pollock sold for about $140 million, which would make it the highest price ever paid for a painting.