Thursday, 22 February 2018

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


alt-kissI'd like to challenge the belief that the chalkware sculpture shown here was created by George Quaintance.

This much is indisputable: In 1936, Quaintance created three sets of male-female faces that were cast in hydro-stone and marketed and sold by The House of Shaw in New York City. They are The Kiss, Wind Blown, and Sea Breeze. He added a fourth set of separate faces in 1939, calling them We Modern. Collectively, he called them masques. There's a full-page publicity flyer in which they are pictured and described in detail. You can see that flyer here.

A different chalkware sculpture titled The Kiss is seen fairly often on Ebay, almost always represented as the work of George Quaintance. In it, the female has a hibiscus flower in her hair. The example above has been painted with metallic paint.

coronetkissHere's the source of the confusion: in one of his scrapbooks, George pasted a page torn out of Coronet magazine, featuring the disputed masque. Text at the bottom of the page identifies the source, the page number (26) and says "Bruno … New York." Some people consider that to be sufficient evidence that Quaintance is the artist. They ignore the fact that Quaintance often included work he admired in his scrapbooks, most notably several ads by illustrator J.C. Leyendecker. Should those people declare that Quaintance drew those illustrations? Does the inclusion of a clipping mean that Quaintance created the object depicted?

signature-examplesLet's consider some other details. George signed his sculptures in one of three ways: using an ink pen, scratching his name into the wet plaster with a stylus, or imprinting the plaster with a stamp. Of these three examples, the one at the bottom is from the actual sculpture of The Kiss. The front view, in the original colors, is shown below.

I have seen at least five different examples of the "Coronet version" of The Kiss. None of them was signed and all were painted in colors other than those described in the House of Shaw flyer. One of them, which sold on eBay earlier this year for $99.99, bore the imprint ©37918•ABCO. ABCO is a trademark for the Alexander Backer company. Backer began producing chalkware in the late 20s or early 30s, but the trademark ABCO was not registered to his company until November, 1959 — two years after Quaintance died.

genuinekiss-quaintanceIt's impossible for me to say whether George saw the chalkware figure in Coronet and was thus inspired to create his own series of masques, or whether George's masques came first and someone else copied one of them. If it were possible to locate that issue of Coronet, it might shed added light on the subject, especially if there was a contributing artist named Bruno. (An Internet search for an artist named Bruno was unsuccessful.)

To further complicate the matter, eBay sellers are now offering yet other versions of The Kiss, such as the execrable ones shown at the bottom, and claiming that they are by George Quaintance. And people are buying them.

The Quaintance legacy is in sufficient disarray already. In the absence of legal oversight, anyone can claim that a work of art they own is by George Quaintance, and anyone can pirate or reproduce genuine works and sell them. Such is the case with the ubiquitous color prints on eBay. This serves only to dilute and confuse the authentic body of work of Quaintance, and diminish the value of the art.

fauxkiss(Note: any image shown here can be enlarged by clicking it. Click again to return to the page.)

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