Several collectors of André Lhote's paintings each bought several years ago with the guarantee of an authentication certificate delivered by the artist's nephew Jean Gouin have recently been advised by the newly formed Lhote committee that these works would not be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's works.
The committee recently took many negative decisions regarding paintings bearing Lhote's signature, which of course have infuriated their owners who were convinced that Gouin's certificates could not be challenged.
Members of the committee now say that Gouin was a bit too generous in delivering certificates hastily. Now, the committee has been busy correcting what are described as "errors", the result being that many collectors who bought works in good faith are now disgusted and that Lhote is likely to be regarded as suspicious on the art market.
The problem is that Lhote is not the only artist being the object of a drastic revision of his oeuvre. Recently, many owners of works baring the signatures of Modigliani, Renoir or Othon Friesz have experienced a bad surprise in being told that they were in possession of fakes whereas they had bought these works with certificates delivered by experts whose opinions are now challenged.
The other problem regarding Lhote's oeuvre is that Gouin was a nephew issued from the artist's second marriage, a fact that might explain that he was not so much acquainted with the works produced before 1916. As a result, many paintings produced during Lhote's Bordeaux period are rejected despite the fact that they were bought with authentication certificates. Still, Gouin was regarded as the sole authority for his uncle's paintings and it now seems somewhat too easy to contradict his opinion.
The Lhote committee's motives aimed at stopping some abuses might be good but in challenging the authenticity of many works sold in auction rooms with Gouin's certificates, notably at Sotheby's, Christie's or Drouot, it seems to have failed to measure up the impact its negative decisions might have for many collectors who righly feel they have been cheated. As a result, such decisions might cause a fall in the value of the works produced by Lhote.
Several battles that have opposed experts in the field of modern paintings are therefore likely to raise suspicion in this particular field.