H. de Roos - What is an original Rodin?


The Berne convention itself, in its 1971 Paris version, allows the right of authorship to be maintained by the authorīs heirs:

Article 6bis (1) Independently of the author's economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work, which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation. 

(2) The rights granted to the author in accordance with the preceding paragraph shall, after his death, be maintained, at least until the expiry of the economic rights, and shall be exercisable by the persons or institutions authorized by the legislation of the country where protection is claimed. 

[From: http://www.law.cornell.edu/treaties/berne/6bis.html]

The latter paragraph may have been the basis of the 1978 French decree.

But while it may be useful and necessary the artistīs heirs act as the holder of the right of authorship when it comes "to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action" by third parties, it is questionable to what extent the heirs can substitute the deceased artist when it comes to artistic decisions in multiplicating his works or to signing it. Although both activities require a certain artistic judgement, there is still an important difference between (a) forbidding others to misrepresent the artist and (b) actively substituting the artist in the execution of his work or even signing it - stepping in the artistīs place as "being the author".

This is the very reason the 1990 VARA has distinguished between the "right of attribution" and the "right of integrity". Whereas active artists like Gary Arseneau - and me - would appreciate others to defend the integrity of our work once we have deceased, we would not like our heirs or legal representatives to sign our lithographs or gum bichromate prints for us or start working with our print faces and negative foils after our death and issue them as "originals" or "original editions".

I am not too familiar with lithography technique but as far as gum prints are concerned, I can assure  the execution of the print is an art in itself. It not only requires my handwriting in applying the color solution and dozens of decisions about color, concentration of the color solution used, exposure times, number of coatings, water temperature etc. Above all, gum bichromate printing is a meditative process, a character test dealing with patience, with the balance between intervention and accepting coincidence. Sometimes its right to help the excess color come off the paper, using a soft pad or pouring extra water over it. But sometimes it ruins the result. Not even I am able to repeat a fortunate result in all details. 
A gum print by someone else from the same foil certainly cannot be called an "original de Roos". Anyone familiar with this technique knows there can be no posthumous "original editions".

The Musée Rodinīs claim to be  "acting as the holder of the artistīs right of authorship" in issuing further original editions in bronze corresponds is poses problems in situations where sheer technical multiplication and artistic decision are difficult to distinguish and museum officials or craftsmen may sometimes intervene in ways that - even when they act with the best intentions - should remain reserved to the artist himself. 




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Last update of this page: 17.09.2003