EBay is, unsurprisingly, awash in fraud. It gets pulled in many ways, including knock-off items and forgeries. Cartoonist Terry Beatty (currently of the “Rex Morgan” newspaper strip) has been doing a good job of highlighting tracings and fakes being passed off as original drawings by famous cartoonists – and given the popularity of Charles Schulz and the thousands his originals normally bring, it should come as little surprise that poorly-formed Snoopy sketches and other such things are in abundance. Recently he linked to something he assumed was a forgery because of the awkwardness of the signature:
Well, there’s the awkwardness of the signature, the under-$90 opening bid price, the fact that it shops from the Russian Federation, that the seller also has Picassos for under $100 (although you have to go more into the $200 range for a Degas or a Matisse, because those are truly valuable artists!) And some of the “Schulz” work he has looks pretty not-Schulz… but this one actually looks very Schulz. In fact, I know that image.
A few years back, I put together a book rescuing and reformatting a couple of Peanuts Christmas stories that had appeared in women’s magazines of the 1960s, undoubtedly read by a huge audience at the time, and then allowed to stay out of print for about half a century. In the few years since, the work has actually seen print twice more – it was one of the things we submitted for inclusion in the final volume of The Complete Peanuts, and the story was also reworked into a sew-it-yourself fabric book. So the odds seems pretty good that whoever produced this (and the other “Schulz” they’re selling from the same work) didn’t find the art by digging through old women’s magazines, but by getting it somewhere I had put it. So it’s all my fault!
And then, did they go and do some masterful job of tracing or recreating? Nope! Conveniently, the seller provided a photo of the back of this original piece of art.
If you zoom in, you can see dark spots around the corners of the square that’s around the image. That’s ink bleed-through. Notice that you don’t see ink bleed through anywhere else, even in areas of relatively heavy ink (the tree, the pants) – at most, you see the image very faintly, which is not an example of ink bleed-through (the ink passing through the paper) but light bleed-through (when the photograph is taken, some light passing through the paper and reflecting on what’s there.) That’s because the image itself was not drawn on the page with a pen pressing into the paper while delivering the ink, but it was scanned and printed there, with the toner or ink sitting basically on top of the paper.
The moral of this story, folks, is to be careful, be wary. Never just believe what a seller tells you about their wares… particularly when it’s a $90 Schulz. Tis the season to be generous, but not stupid.