Saturday, 25 March 2017

EbookCoverWelcome to the George Quaintance blog. Your hosts, John Waybright and Ken Furtado, are the authors of QUAINTANCE: The Short Life of an American Art Pioneer, the only complete, authoritative biography of Quaintance ever written. Our book fills a cultural, historical and academic void for this seminal 20th century artist. It is packed with photos and available as an ebook at Smashwords, for the low price of $12.99. We are excited to have exclusive access to hundreds of never-published photographs from Quaintance’s personal scrapbooks and family archives. Sadly, John passed away in May 2013, before seeing the book published. We hope you will use this site as a platform to exchange ideas, information and images related to this under-valued artist, as well as to learn more about him. Please send your email to


3kanakafishermenA visitor to this blog recently wrote to ask me about an original Quaintance canvas he owns. He enclosed snapshots. Lo, it was Kanaka Fisherman, but it was a fisherman I have never seen.

Two other versions of Kanaka Fisherman are known. One of them bears a 1940 date and the vertical signature. In it, the man is throwing a net. This painting (center image in photo) belongs to a collector in Los Angeles and it was purchased directly from the Quaintance estate in the 1970s. The canvas orientation is horizontal.

kanakapoemQuaintance painted a different Kanaka Fisherman in 1949, changing the orientation to vertical, repositioning the man's body and changing the net. This one bears the horizontal signature. It is the version that the Quaintance Studio sold as black-and-white photos and it's the version that is listed in all the catalogs. Studio records show that the painting was sold, but not to whom. Its current whereabouts are unknown.

In the "new" painting — which may well predate the other two —  there is a horizon not depicted in the others, and the net is so diaphanous as to be almost invisible (left image in photo). This painting is also signed vertically and dated 1940. So now there are three different fisherman. A village is emerging!

Early in our research for the Quaintance biography, John and I encountered many people wanting to know whether Quaintance ever painted the same canvas twice ... and if so, which paintings? It's a question that merits its own article, and the fact that there are three Kanaka fishermen does not mean every GQ canvas has a doppelgänger or two somewhere.

Here's a coda to the story. In 1954, a Quaintance fan wrote a poem inspired by Kanaka Fisherman (the 1949 version) and sent it to George, along with payment for a catalog. Quaintance sent him a complimentary photograph of the painting, writing, "Dear Mr. Ankrom, I enjoyed your poem very much, and in appreciation, have enclosed a print of Kanaka Fisherman, along with the catalogues that you asked for. Respectfully yours, Quaintance." That correspondence was provided to me by its owner, a collector with whom I have lost touch.

By the way, today the word "Kanaka," which means "human being" in Hawaiian, is generally regarded as derogatory or disparaging.


#7 Ken Furtado 2012-06-19 19:48
I think Charles' comments about Gill of Hawaii are well taken. I have corresponded previously with the owner of the painting now listed on eBay and I consider it to be genuine. GQ was not an anatomist. Yes, this fisherman's ear is way too low. Contemporary artist David Humphreys, who has often quoted GQ in his canvases, has talked about this before.
#6 CHARLES VERRASTRO 2012-06-19 19:44
Having said that, the present asking price is awfully high. Although Quaintance originals are extremely rare on the market, this is neither a large nor particularly good example of his work (which typically go between $400.00-$3,000. 00.) And the condition issues make it more of a collector's piece than an addition to one's personal art collection. I collect Quaintance sculpture and art for a projected series of museum exhibitions. But I've never paid over a few hundred dollars for any one piece.
#5 CHARLES VERRASTRO 2012-06-19 19:36
I'd have to actually examen the piece to give an opinion. But there's nothing about the artist's procedures that would tell against it. Quaintance tended to use photographs of live models and fit them into a scene. In the case of the Kanaka Fisherman I believe he made have used an equally obscure artist's work, that of Gill of Hawaii, as his inspiration. Gill worked during the same period and has a very similar scene of a muscular and handsome Hawaiian net fisherman in one of his paintings (and also produced versions at slightly different stances and angles of vision, as appear in the various Quaintance versions). As Quaintance made his money selling prints of his pieces it would make sense he might tinker with a painting to get a better finished product. Since we know there are at least two authentic versions of the same piece it would argue you may well have the first "draft". Only the most finished version was used for the mail-order print.
#4 CHARLES VERRASTRO 2012-06-19 19:32
There is clearly some experimentation with the stance and angle of the fisherman. I've speculated in other instances Quaintance may have been using slides or projected negatives to reverse the images. The Fisherman faces in an entirely different direction in the later examples. As to the hair, see the later paintings for a more carefully coiffed doo. "Kanaka", however (at least at the time of the painting, in modern Hawaiian and Pidgeon it's become a term of derision) was a general term for a native Hawaiian who lived simply in the Old Style as opposed to being a "Missionary Kane". So a little uncombed wildness would have been appropriate anyway.
#3 Len 2012-06-19 14:20
A point has been made abut Quaintance's fascination with hair. So I find it odd that the hair appears to be poorly painted in this image.

Also just what is going on with the ear and jawline? A closeup of the head would be helpful.

I suspect that being such an early painting that the artist might not have been quite as skillful here as he was in his later paintings. It does bring into question the question of originality. But even if Quaintance has made a copy of his own work, is it still not an original painting?
#2 dino 2012-06-16 12:29
do you think this newly emerged painting is really a Quaintance, or a copy.
thanks, Dino
#1 CHARLES VERRASTRO 2012-06-06 18:17
This is now on Ebay. Is the pricing reasonable?

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