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Judge rules for artist Peter Doig–who still sees red

August 23rd, 2016

The artist of a landscape painting at the center of federal trial in Chicago was not famed Peter Doig, according to a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feinerman.

The multi-million lawsuit grew international attention as it asked the question: If an artist says he or she didn’t paint the artwork, does that mean they should be believed? Here’s more background on the case.

Here’s more on Peter Doig’s artwork.

In this instance, at least, Feinerman, says yes. But that wasn’t enough for Doig, who still criticized the drawn-out court process that had him testifying in court about whether he painted the work (pictured above). He said he didn’t.

“I have rarely seen such a flagrant example of unethical conduct in the U.S. courts nor a case that inflicted such needless burdens on a defendant. Artists should be grateful to Peter for having the ethical and financial fortitude to fight tirelessly to ensure that justice prevailed in today’s verdict,” Matthew Dontzin, Doig’s New York attorney, said in a statement released after the ruling.

Neither the lawyer nor Doig were in the courtroom but were on a muted speaker phone.

Feinerman’s ruling went into great detail as he explained why he believed Doig did not paint the work in question.

His decision also drew the ire of retired Ontario corrections officer Robert Fletcher who says he still believes it was Doig who gave him the painting some 40 years ago, not the late Pete Doige, who was an inmate at the facility where Fletcher worked.

The Chicago art dealer who Fletcher hired to sell the painting also spouted off after Tuesday’s ruling. “No one should be allowed to lie,” Peter Bartlow of Chicago-based Bartlow Gallery Ltd. said, referring to Doig.

In his ruling from the bench, Feinerman detailed evidence that showed Doig was a teen-ager in high school at the time the artwork was painted at a Canadian correctional facility. And he also attributed his ruling to evidence showing the late Doige was incarcerated at the time the painting was produced.

The case has been in the courts since 2013 and many in the art world have been surprised to see it go this far. The judge says there were enough facts on each side to allow he case to go to trial.

Doig testified and so did his mother, Mary. His defense team presented yearbook pictures of a shaggy haired Doig as a high school student in the 1970s. But it was letters written by Doig’s mom that were especially persuasive, the judge said. The letters talked about her son’s activities during the time period in question.

“Those letters are unimpeachable. They are unvarnished reportage,” the judge said, adding Doig’s mom had no motive to lie at the time the letters were sent.

The artist’s mom also “testified credibly” about the whereabouts of her son during the years when the disputed artwork was painted, even talking about how she remembered “staying awake at night” until her son returned from his food-service job.

Peter Doig could not have been the author of the work, the judge said.

“It’s exceptionally strong evidence that the artwork was by (the now deceased) Peter Edward Doige,” the judge said.

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