Forged painting backdrop for Stamford gallery opening

STAMFORD — A landscape sullied in forgery and misrepresentation will be the backdrop for the launch of the Loft Artists Association’s 2017 season.

“Landscape Paintings and Forgery,” a collaboration with the Stamford Museum and Nature Center that will showcase members’ original landscape paintings inspired by an infamous piece of artwork from the museum’s permanent collection, opens Thursday in the East Gallery on Pacific Street.

“Midsummer, Montclair, NJ,” circa 1873, is a large oil on canvas landscape painting that was gifted to the museum by Harvey L. Rohde, of New Canaan. The donation is recorded to have occurred in 1971, but Kirsten Brophy, curator of collections and exhibitions for the museum, believes it may have been considerably earlier.

“Midsummer, Montclair, NJ” was originally attributed to George Inness, an American landscape painter, but was later properly credited to Alexander Wust, a Dutch-born artist who immigrated to the United States and had a similar style. Brophy said Rohde believed he was purchasing an Inness painting, and a plaque is affixed to the frame that proclaims Inness as the artist.

“At some point in the history of that painting,” Brophy said, “most likely a dealer changed the attribution and basically misrepresented the painting.”

Brophy said the painting was first questioned in the 1950s during the tenure of the museum’s first art director, William Wallace Rosenbauer.

Rosenbauer contacted Sheldon Keck, art conservator at the Brooklyn Museum and a member of the Monuments Men, which worked to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazi regime during World War II.

However, Brophy said she has been unable to obtain paperwork or correspondence between the two men, so she does not know what Keck’s conclusions may have been. Keck died in 1993. So Brophy, who has been the museum’s curator for nearly five years, sent images of the painting to Michael Quick, who has spent his career documenting each of Inness’ works.

“Nowhere did he ever see this painting,” she said, so he was confident it was not an Inness. She said a closer examination of the canvas reveals Wust’s original signature.

“I think one of the interesting things is that at some point, someone made the decision to forge the Inness signature and then misrepresent the painting,” Brophy said.

Brophy will speak about the painting’s history during the opening reception, which will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the gallery at 575 Pacific St.

Regular gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit or call 203-247-2027.