Posted by: cherylyoung | January 13, 2016

CAROLINE BURNETT at The Gallery at Upstairs on Beacon

Burnett.jpgThe Mystery of the Burnett Paintings

PLEASE NOTE WE DO NOT BUY NOR SELL PAINTINGS. THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN IN 2012 SO IS NOT UP TO DATE.

Since writing this article in September 2012, Caroline Burnetts’ paintings have been accredited with worldwide acclaim and some are being sold for small fortunes. So, although not up to date, please read on for a fascinating insight into a listed and exhibited artist, who was, until her fame escalated recently, an obscure artist steeped in mystery…

 

A typical Paris scene – the Moulin Rouge, a market, the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysee… all signed by Burnett. What started as a throw away question, ‘who is Burnett?’ ignited a debate which has run for years, and still rages on.

All around the world, in charity shops, auctions, street corners, art galleries, online, private collections… a Burnett Oil has been stumbled across or sourced. People have found Burnett’s in attics, sourced them for their growing collection, been handed them down from grandparents, claim to have bought the painting direct from him – or her, with every painting having been bought at a variety of prices from a few pounds to thousands of dollars.

Burnett 2.jpg

 The linking theme in each painting is of a French scene in oils, the faces of the people unseen or undeterminable. But the name signed, although always Burnett, is found on the bottom left or right of the painting. It is either in red or brown, always in capitals, with one or two T’s and sometimes with an initial before the name – Burnett. It is this variation that sparked the debate whether Burnett is one or more painters. Comments have been made globally from auctioneers at Christie’s to art dealers, from charity shop workers to collectors, culminating in a plethora of stories, all of which evoke the imagination as much as the other.

Forenames for this artist have been surmised. The most popular of these have been Caroline, Carolyn, Will, Charles, Jan and Mileu.  Suggested dates of the paintings of this artist have varied from 1940’s to 1990’s. People have ruminated on the fact some paintings seem the same, but each are painted only a few metres away from the last painting, so the scene extends on in each representation.

One rumour has it that the paintings were churned out in a sweat shop in Mexico and were named such because the owner said that if people found out who painted them they will burn it, thus the name ‘Burnett’. Another says the assembly line was in China. Others say struggling artists copied the paintings and signatures, or that new and struggling artists go to Paris, paint the scenes with the Burnett signature, and then sell them on – one auctioneer commenting that these were still worth up to $250 in a good frame, despite the spurious lineage. Or that pavement artists produce these paintings ‘en masse’. The theory that there were two artists, husband and wife, is popular. Ron and Carolyn Burnett are famed to have painted similar scenes with similar signatures.

The truth? It was in fact the artist Caroline Burnett who has survived the myths to become the legend. An American artist, listed in the Who’s Who of American Art, she lived and painted in Paris. Her medium was oil and she always signed BURNETT at the bottom right of her paintings. Her paintings were inspired by the scenes surrounding her. Her Moulin Rouge painting was bought in 1971 at $1000, but her paintings have been bought and sold worldwide for pennies to fortunes.

Although various voices in the art world and collectors of paintings have articulated their enthusiasm for her work, it is the individual who has commented most on their personal enjoyment of her vibrant scenes and the love for her depictions. The beauty of art is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder, and Burnett’s work seems to be adored throughout the world.

Burnett3.jpg

PLEASE NOTE WE ARE NOT QUALIFIED IN ART APPRAISAL AND DO NOT VALUE OR SELL WORKS OF ART, WE PURELY HAD AN INTEREST IN THIS INTRIGUING ARTIST AND THE RUMOURS AND STORIES THAT ABOUNDED. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE AROUND THE WORLD WHO HAS WRITTEN TO US WITH THEIR MANY STORIES AND CLAIMS. IT HAS BEEN A FASCINATING JOURNEY! WE ONLY WISH WE HAD SPACE TO RECORD EVERYTHING WE HAVE BEEN TOLD SINCE WRITING THIS PIECE.

Norma Jeans Closet

 

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