“He has no formal training as an expert witness in handwriting analysis and his evidence is rejected.”
“Mr. Robinson’s evidence of Morellian analysis of the round versus elongated eyes in Morrisseau’s painting was confusing. His commentary on colour was also inconsistent.”
“The Court rejects his expert report and his conclusion that the Morellian analysis, style, colour, and provenance all pointed to forgery.”
“The Court finds that there is overwhelming evidence that Norval Morrisseau signed paintings in black brush paint.”
“… the painting “Wheel of Life” dated February 1979 is an original Norval Morrisseau …”
“The painting “Wheel of Life” is not a forgery. The Defendants did not misrepresent the authenticity of the painting.”
# in the most stunning landmark ruling in any Canadian fine art case ever, Judge Paul J Martial handed out the most total and resounding denunciation and rejection of the testimony – supposedly based on the claimed knowledge, expertise, and integrity of a Toronto art dealer – ever meted out to a supposed fine art expert in Canadian history.
Judge Paul J Martial had listened to Donald Robinson’s testimony for some three days, over a thirteen month period, had read his 89 page “expert report” calling “Wheel of Life 1979” a forgery, and then had taken ten months to go over the evidence before making his totally decisive ruling sparing no words to effectively put an end to the biggest fine art Hoax in Canadian history.
Judge Martial fearlessly tackled, head on, virtually the sole support for the Hatfield/Sommer case, the self-declared expert, Donald Robinson, who publicizes himself endlessly on his corporate website and corporate blog, as the Principal Morrisseau Dealer.
Donald Robinson, you may remember, is the one who started the whole Conspiracy Theory about hundreds of so-called forgeries back in May 2001, when he made his wild charges for the first time for a journalist at the National Post.
In the 12 years since he has expanded his propaganda to charge that there are “thousands of forgeries by umpteen forgers” out there, all being sold by his business competitors.
In 2011 Robinson volunteered to show his proof in court on behalf of a Conspiracy Theory proxy, Margaret Hatfield, whom he and his business associate Ritchie Sinclair had convinced to go to court with her pension money to claim her painting “Wheel of Life 1979” was a forgery.
It would be the very first court case ever launched in Canadian art history by a member of the Morrisseau Conspiracy Theorists to attempt to prove a forgery. They used a proxy, getting a retired school teacher to use her pension to fund litigation, instead of funding a court challenge themselves.
In fact in over 12 years the Conspiracy Theorists have never taken a single forger or forgery to court. Not one…
Robinson and his acolyte and business associate, Ritchie Sinclair who introduced the two, probably convinced Ms. Hatfield that this was going to be easy.
A slam dunk. And though it might cost her tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills – money she could not afford to lose – no doubt they told her she’d get it all back when she won her case…
Hell, with thousands of these so-called forgeries “out there” Robinson ONLY HAD TO PROVE ONE WAS A FORGERY.
HOW EASY IS THAT?
Robinson wrote an 89 page “expert report” that he says took him six months to create showing his multi-level so-called “proof” that he claimed showed conclusively that “Wheel of Life 1979” was a forgery.
He had previously done another “expert report” for another court case (see Otavnik v Sinclair) seeking to prove “Jesuit Preist Brings Word 1974“ was a fake. Many of Robinson’s ideas and so-called proofs were recycled into the new “Wheel of Life 1979” “expert report.”
Judge Godfrey, who in the earlier case (see Otavnik v Sinclair), didn’t buy any of it, completely ignored Robinson’s first report, and refused to rule “Jesuit Preist” was a forgery, in fact assuring the Plaintiff, Joe Otavnik, and making a finding that his painting had not lost value of any kind as a result of what went on outside or inside the court. It was the judge’s way of saying the painting is authentic.
It was Judge Godfrey’s way of dissing the so-called proof of forgery documented by Robinson in his 114 page “expert report.” But the judge also told Otavnik he would very much like to have seen a report from a forensic handwriting analysis expert on the prominent signature on the back, which had not been commissioned.
(This was subsequently done; a top Canadian scientist confirmed with DNA certainty, that “Jesuit Preist,” which Robinson’s report said was a total forgery, was, in fact, authentically signed by Morrisseau, and by no one else. It confirmed Judge Godfrey’s support for the painting as authentic, and his sound judgment in ignoring the Robinson “expert report.”)
Now in Robinson’s second “expert report,” for “Wheel of Life 1979” there were no ifs ands or buts about Robinson’s claims of certainty about it all. Robinson swore, unlike professional forensic experts who only dealt in “DNA certainty,” he was made of sterner stuff than that. He said he was 100% sure “Wheel” was a fake. He put it all in his so-called “expert report.”
Then Robinson took the stand to display before the judge and the public gallery, all the documentary and analytical evidence he could muster to demonstrate and confirm that the painting was a forgery.
The court indulged him, big time. He was on the stand for three days. Judge Martial took lots of notes.
And all Robinson had to do, remember, was prove a single forgery, one of his own choosing, and not have to prove 4,000 fakes, which he claimed were actually “out there.” Though in the dozen years since he began spreading the rumours of fakes through a lazy and compliant media, he has never identified a single forger, and has not taken a single forgery to court or sued anyone for either making so-called forgeries or selling them.
Now, in May 2011, one forgery was all Robinson needed.
Everything was on his side to allow him to give it his “best shot.”
What could be simpler than that, to confirm the truth of his Conspiracy Theory?
A – ROBINSON’S CLAIMS – Robinson had several major claims or proofs of forgery that he boldly put forward.
The Stupid Forger – Alas, the Stupid Forger had certainly left his compromising DNA all over the back of all the so-called forgeries, adding not only:
– a huge Signature, but
– a Date,
– a Title in caps,
– a Copyright Symbol, and
– various additional distinguishing marks, and doing it all with
– huge strokes of a brush in black paint.
(Did the Stupid Forger not know that leaving all this DNA on the back of the painting is data that forensic experts and handwriting analysts love to feed on?)
In turn Robinson attacked each of these supposed “faux pas” by a “Stupid Forger” as a dead giveaway that “Wheel” and all other similarly signed BDPs, were lousy fakes.
He said the fakes were so obvious, so poorly done, so amateurish that even a beginner could spot them across the room. He didn’t explain how come then, both he and his son had bought some 31 of these alleged fakes for $54,000 and authenticated others exactly like them, on multiple occasions for Kinsman Robinson Galleries clients between 1999 and 2001.
All BDPs Were Forgeries – In fact Robinson claimed all “black drybrush signed titled and dated paintings” were fake; every single one of them. Totaling possibly 4,000 – by his count – or more…
And Donald Robinson held to this view, stridently, without a single qualifying word or phrase, as he took great pains on multiple occasions to point out to Judge Martial.
The Notorious KR-384 – The biggest bombshell in the courtroom, during the entire five days the trial was held was inadvertently dropped, when Donald Robinson went all out to try to prove that Norval never ever signed the back of his paintings in black drybrush paint.
As proof, Robinson stated, he had taken possession of 384 paintings belonging to Norval Morrisseau in 2002, and kept them at the Kinsman Robinson Galleries in Toronto, where they were shipped, from the west coast, presumably by Gabe Vadas, for “safekeeping” – Robinson’s word – for seven years, until after Norval died.
Robinson repeated ad absurdum how he had examined each one multiple times, over the years, had personally numbered them KR1 to KR-384, and that not a single one was signed, titled, and dated in black paint.
Robinson was clearly trying to pull the wool over the judge’s eyes.
As everyone knows, signing styles for an artist change with the passing decades. Morrisseau collectors suspected that with Norval’s horribly shaking hands it was not a good idea to have him sign the back of any paintings from the mid-90s on. People might very well ask: hey, if his signature is so shaky, how come the lines on the other side of the painting are so strong and firm?
Robinson also said all the other paintings – well over a thousand – he ever handled, were similarly blank on the back. He strategically – or was it dementia? – forgot to remind Judge Martial that he had multiple times (1999-2000) bought thirty-one (31) 1970s paintings which had been hugely signed with black paint on the back. And his son Paul Robinson had also issued multiple Appraisals for similar 1970s BDP paintings, as early as 1999 and as late as October 2001.
The “Safekeeping” Tactic – What the KR-384 bombshell exploded was not light on how and when Norval signed or didn’t sign his paintings, but raised the question what is all this moving twenty to forty million dollars worth of Norval paintings from British Columbia to the basement of the Kinsman Robinson Galleries in Toronto, for supposed “safekeeping,” as Robinson testified in court?
“Safekeeping” the $40,000,000 from whom? Lowlife thugs and B&E artists in Nanaimo?
Or was this a pre-emptive strike and an attempt to keep the paintings out of the hands of the Morrisseau family and their lawyer?
Here’s my take on why this is a bombshell.
For several years, the Morrisseau family had been trying to kidnap Norval from the clutches of Gabe Vadas, in Nanaimo, BC. In December 2001 they succeeded and took Norval out of the terminal care facility he had been stuck in by Gabe Vadas, and moved him to Thunder Bay where he was to remain under their control till sometime in the fall of 2002.
Gabe Vadas must have panicked big time to find that his meal ticket – for the past sixteen years – was gone. The family had kidnapped Norval. He guessed that they and their lawyer would strike next to grab all Norval’s possessions, especially all the hundreds of paintings Norval owned.
They had nabbed Norval out of his clutches… Was Gabe now intent to make sure they wouldn’t grab the paintings next?
I believe he shipped 384 of Norval’s paintings to Kinsman Robinson Galleries, allegedly for “safe-keeping,” but not from lowlife burglars, but so that neither the Morrisseau family, nor the family lawyer, could find them and grab them.
And of course with Norval spending most of 2002 in Thunder Bay – besides he was also mostly in la-la land at this time – I bet it’s likely he wasn’t even aware he was a multi-millionaire or that his paintings had been, ahem… moved, for “safekeeping.”
In fact in 2003 Norval told Macleans journalist John Geddes that he wished he had a few dollars so he could afford to buy some paint and canvas… The plaintive cry of a wheelchair cripple who was completely unaware that some $40,000,000 of his paintings were, at that very moment, in the KRG basement, having the backs being carefully examined by Donald Robinson, as he testified he did.
The $40,000,000 stash of paintings was still there in the KRG basement when Norval died. (Robinson kept them for another two years before he says he shipped them back to the west coast – we presume – to Gabe Vadas.)
And, as the press, the family, the lawyers all said, Norval died broke, leaving not a nickel, not a house, not a boat, not a property, not a bank account, not a painting to his children…
It would be very interesting to know whether this surreptitious moving of the KR-384 paintings to Toronto by Vadas and Robinson happened at the time that Norval was in Thunder Bay.
It raises the obvious question: was this huge stash of hundreds of paintings taken on a secret trip without Norval’s say-so or his knowledge?
So was “safekeeping” really to keep them out of the clutches of Norval, his family, and their lawyers?
And to preserve them for the man who had, for years, been exercising Norval’s Power of Attorney, and his business partner, the Principal Morrisseau Dealer, who presumably hoped to continue their longstanding business relationship, and a future lucrative partnership in selling the $40,000,000 worth of paintings for him.
How legal or ethical is any of that?
And furthermore, since family members say they ended up with nothing: who ended up with the $40,000,000 in paintings, all so carefully numbered KR-1 to KR-384…?
Black Drybrush – certain sign of forgery
“Q. Okay, the signature on the back of this particular painting from Norval is significantly larger, you’ll agree with me, than these handwritten signatures that you’ve analyzed in your report?
Q. Did you factor that into your consideration?
A. Certainly, certainly part of my experience that on the rare cases when Norval did sign the back of his paintings, never as large as this particular one, or any of the paintings like it.
Q. So correct me then if I’m putting it to you this way, Mr. Robinson, you don’t care about the handwriting analysis at all. You’ve drawn the conclusion that the signature on the back is inaccurate simply because it’s in dry-brush and black-coloured paint?
A. I could draw that conclusion. I didn’t in my report. I analyzed a number of factors but, including the handwriting methods and the initials and so on, but you could draw – I would certainly agree with your statement that almost all the paintings that I could see from the ’70’s that are painted in – that have a painted writing in the back and very large paint by a brush and paint are in fact forgeries.” (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: Sep 1, 2011 p 22)
What Robinson was saying was, that without forensically analyzing the handwriting itself, just by looking at the black drybrush on the back you could identify some 4,000 paintings as forgeries.
Writing on the Back – never in black paint
“In twenty-eight years of dealing in Morrisseau’s art, I observed that Norval had rarely written anything on the back of any canvas, but when he did, it was always in pencil or ballpoint pen – never in black paint.” (Kinsman Robinson Galleries/Principal Morrisseau Dealer Blog – Aug 28, 2008, 2 a:m)
Robinson first made the above claims in the 2008 Kinsman Robinson corporate blog “Principal Morrisseau Dealer.” Now Robinson went on to restate his claims before the Martial court in 2011 and 2012.
“… the writing and printing in heavy black drybrush paint on the back of the canvas, alleged to be by the artist, is completely inconsistent with Norval Morrisseau’s practice.
“Morrisseau did not use drybrush paint to sign, title, or date his art in the 1970’s, or any other time.”
“As I said in my report Norval rarely, rarely ever wrote anything on the back of his paintings. He did do sometimes, but when he did it was always in pencil, pen or marker pen. And never ever have I ever seen one, nor have I ever known anybody to know one that has – was painted in – in black paint in the back. (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: Sep 1, 2011 p 33)
“Q. When he did write on the back of paintings, a title or a date, what did he – how did he do it?
A. He normally – he always did it in pencil, sometimes in ink, occasionally in marker pen. That’s the only ones I’ve ever seen. And I say – my estimate would be that he did this perhaps in maybe 10 per cent of the paintings he produced. This was not his normal practice.” (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: Sep 1, 2011 p 35)
“MR. SCHILLER: Q. Bear with me one moment. You say on page 47 of your report, and you can look at it if you’d like, I’m quoting directly, “It is improbable, if not impossible, that Mr. Morrisseau signed any paintings…” in what you call, “DB” or drybrush writing. You stand by that; correct?
A. I guess I should refer to that page; 47?
Q. Page 47
A. Oh yes, okay; I’m with you.
Q. And you even said that earlier in your evidence in this proceeding when you were examined by Mr. Sommer.
A. Probably.” (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: Feb 23, 2012 p 34)
This is very strange testimony from a self-styled world’s top Morrisseau expert who had spent $54,000 buying 31 paintings all hugely signed, titled, and dated on the back with black drybrush paint. At that time he had been an “expert” dealer in Morrisseau’s art for some 15 years.
And his son Paul Robinson, who runs Kinsman Robinson Galleries today, had signed Certificates of Appraisal authenticating many similar Morrisseau paintings, also hugely signed, titled, and dated on the back with black paint…
Dating – very, very rarely; never in black paint
And to make sure that he had not heard wrongly from Robinson, Judge Martial once asked him directly for clarification.
“THE COURT: I just have a question. Mr. Robinson, the paintings were never dated, were they?
A. “No. Norval normally did not date his paintings, and the bulk of these certainly were not dated. I can’t say for certain that none of them were dated, because we know he did occasionally, very, very rarely, but occasionally write a title on the back of the painting if it was, for example, particularly interesting to his family – and he may have in some cases written the date – but of course, well, it would never have been in black paint.” (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: Sep 1, 2011 p 34)
Titling – not caps only
“First of all, the main difference right away is that Norval was never in the habit of – when he did title, he never titled using all capitals. He just didn’t do that. He would always use upper and lower case letters.” (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: May 31, 2011 p 37)
Signature – never did it in black paint
“In answer to the question: did Norval sign his signature in English with brush and paint? He testified: “… almost never did it. Not to my knowledge have I ever seen it” (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: Sep 1, 2011 p 22)” quoted (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p11)
Robinson said his knowledge and expertise in Norval’s handwriting proved a forger had signed “Wheel of Life 1979.”
Robinson said it made him 100% certain that “Wheel” was a forgery.
ADDITIONAL ROBINSON PROOFS OF FORGERY:
Robinson Claim: His Expertise in Morellian Analysis Proved a Forger Painted Wheel – His Morellian analysis of the stylistic elements on the front of the painting, he claimed, proved it was not done by Norval.
Robinson Claim: Norval Said “Wheel” Was a Fake – Morrisseau had signed an Affidavit of Forgery – in the fall of 2004 – to which was attached a list on which the painting was named as a forgery. The validity of all Norval’s affidavits gained their entire power because attached to the hip to them all was an important Conspiracy Theorist claim.
Robinson Claim: Morrisseau Had Total Recall – Robinson had for years, repeated that Morrisseau had total recall of 10,000 paintings which he had painted over some 50 years. He had first crossly insisted on this to Murray Whyte of the National Post in May 2001, when he snapped at the journalist that it was “preposterous” for him to suggest that it wasn’t so.
It was always the claim of Norval’s papal infallibility in remembering everything he ever painted that was the only basis for credibility in these Affidavits of Forgery which were sent out to all Donald Robinson’s major business competitors from 2003 to 2005.
Robinson Claim: His Business Competitors are Fraud Artists – Robinson claimed he alone spoke the truth, and was testifying for altruistic reasons, that the other Morrisseau art dealers were all lying, and knowingly involved in fraud to cover up the fact they were selling fakes to the public.
“Q. (Brian Shiller) And do you believe that the actions of Artworld of Sherway along with Jim White, who was the consignor of the painting, amount to some form of fraudulent scheme?
A. I certainly do.
Q. And you believe that Donna Child is involved in that fraudulent scheme?
A. Yes.” (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: Feb 23, 2012 p4)
Robinson Claim: All Randy Potter Auction Paintings are Forgeries – Since “Wheel” came from Randy Potter’s auction, it was forged like all the other Morrisseaus sold at that auction.
“Mr. Robinson based his opinion of forgery since a large number of the paintings came from Khan Country Auctions. He observed Mr. White at Khan Country Auctions buy a large number of paintings. That he agrees that all the paintings from this auction are forgeries. “They certainly are!” he said.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p10)
B – The Testimony of the Defendant’s Witnesses
Numerous sworn witnesses, including dealers, collectors, and family members, came forward to say that what Donald Robinson was saying was a “lie.” They testified, under oath, that they had seen Norval sign his paintings, many times in the 1970s and 80s, exactly like Donald Robinson claimed the “Stupid Forger” had done.
– Robinson said, “They are all lying, absolutely. They’re complicit in this whole scheme.” (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child Sep 1, 2011 p24)
Sworn affidavits were produced from another collector who had seen Norval sign his paintings this way in Thunder Bay back in the 70s.
Dr. Atul K Singla, one of Canada’s top forensic scientists, and handwriting analysis experts said, with DNA certainty, that Norval, and no one else, had signed the back of “Wheel of Life 1979,” and not some “Stupid Forger.”
– Robinson said forensic scientists are scared to say they are 100% certain of their findings because they always are in doubt about the claims in their reports. (Anyone who has actually studied statistical analysis knows that statements claiming 100% accuracy are unscientific nonsense including with DNA, and even finger prints. It’s all about extremely high degrees of probability.)
– Robinson also said these highly educated forensic experts – Dr. Singla has an M.A. and a Ph.D in forensics, as well as numerous supplementary diplomas – are paid to produce results the client wants to find, so they essentially fabricate their reports to make money. (Unlike Donald Robinson, of course.)
C – The Martial Judgment: General
After listening to all this over five long days of testimony, over some 13 months, Judge Martial privately reviewed the hundreds of pages of documents and court transcripts for some ten months to analyze the case alleging forgery.
On March 25, 2013, Judge Martial published his ruling.
The Martial Judgment: Specifics on Authenticity
In his prefatory remarks Judge Martial stated: “An expert witness has the obligation to be truthful and objective in all of his testimony.” and “The Court will assess the credibility of all witnesses in the normal course.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p9)
Expert Witness – “Mr. Robinson was qualified as an expert witness on the valuation and authentication of Norval Morrisseau, the artist. He was not qualified as a handwriting expert.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p6)
Morrellian Analysis – “Mr. Robinson would examine a tiny part of the painting and by examining the tiny details proof of the forgery would be revealed. In his opinion the painting entitled “Wheel of Life” was nowhere an exact copy and nowhere a good fake due to inconsistencies in the style.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p7)
Style – Robinson testified that the style of the paintings is not typical of Morrisseau.
Signature on the Back – “He testified that there was never large black drybrush paint on authentic Norval Morrisseau paintings. Whenever Norval Morrisseau signed he used a regular brush. The dry brush technique is to dip a brush in a jar of paint, wipe most of the paint off and use it to produce a signature. He testified that the back of the “Wheel of Life” painting has a dry brush signature so that it looks old and faded which is typical of 1970s fakes.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p8)
Judge Martial restated the evidence in his judgment. “Robinson testified that during the time that he represented Morrisseau exclusively which was for 19 years that not one painting had writing on the back in paint and brush.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p10)
“On cross-examination, Mr. Wilfred Morrisseau testified that some eighty percent (80%) of the paintings were signed on the back with black paint. More importantly that he saw his brother sign with his own eyes.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p23)
Title – “He (Robinson) stated that Morrisseau never painted using all capital letters in his titles, He would use upper and lower case letters.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p8)
No Proof of Forgers – Judge Martial wrote and quoted directly from the transcripts: “Although Morrisseau told Mr. Robinson the names of the persons involved in the forgeries. Mr. Robinson did not write them down since he had no evidence to back up his claims.
“A. Well, I didn’t write them down and I had no evidence whatsoever to back up his claims. He did mention people, apprentices. So I didn’t do anything with them because I had no, no evidence and no reason to believe – I had nothing to back him up. (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child Feb 23, 2012 p52)” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p13)
Unreliable Authentication by Robinson – “He (Robinson) also agreed that even he himself had difficulty assessing the authenticity of Morrisseau paintings around 1999-2000.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p12)
Though at the time Robinson was prominently going around telling people he was the world’s top Morrisseau expert, the “guy who wrote the book on Morrisseau,” etc., he admitted to Judge Martial he was at the time, about a 10% expert compared to what he is now…
Unreliable Authentication by Morrisseau – And Robinson agreed Norval was also unreliable. “He testified that he observed Norval Morrisseau himself having difficulty telling whether or not his own painting was a fake.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p13)
“The Court concludes that authentication by the artist himself was at times incorrect.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p13)
“The Court finds it highly irregular that Morrisseau the artist himself was unable to identify his own art. Mr. Robinson testified that he would not be surprised that Morrisseau would sign a certificate of authenticity to make someone happy as stated by Christian Morrisseau in a blog. This raises even more doubt in the view of the Court as to the reliability of Morrisseau.
Mr. Robinson farther testified that he agreed that Morrisseau was unpredictable in general.
“Mr. Robinson also agreed that Morrisseau could have had memory problems during the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and certainly in 2007.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p14)
D – JUDGE MARTIAL’S FINDING:
On BDPs – “The Court finds that there is overwhelming evidence that Norval Morrisseau signed paintings in black brush paint.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p36)
It was an utterly stunning finding, completely knocking the central pillar out from under Donald Robinson, and the main “proof” claimed (or invented) by the Conspiracy Theorists.
In fact three different top Canadian forensic scientists and handwriting analysis experts had, over the past several years, confirmed that some 70 different paintings, claimed to be forgeries by Donald Robinson, had been, in fact, authentically signed by Norval Morrisseau, with DNA certainty, and that no one else could have done it. Without a single failing finding.
Judge Martial was merely confirming what had been established by scientists who were experts in their field, not amateurs like Donald Robinson and his business associate, Ritchie Sinclair.
It was Norval’s way of speaking from the grave, having left his DNA, big time, on the back of thousands of his 1970s paintings.
So it was Norval himself, who decisively dissed Donald Robinson’s claim, not just Judge Martial.
Furthermore Judge Martial also noted, “It was his (Robinson’s) opinion that paintings from the 1970’s were rare.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p9)
By his finding that there was “overwhelming evidence” that BDPs were genuine Morrisseaus, Judge Martial liberated literally thousands of Robinson-vilified Norval’s 1970s paintings as being authentic which they were all along. They are all from the very period from when Wolf Morrisseau had testified it was he who had instigated the whole thing of prominently signing, titling and dating the paintings in black drybrush paint on the back to help international sales in the 70s.
Many experts say the 1970s was Norval’s most prolific period, and the only reason Robinson said the paintings from then were rare, was because he called them all forgeries. In fact he had seen hundreds of them at Randy Potter’s auction; he had bought 31 of them himself; his son Paul had given Appraisals for many others.
In fact I believe an art terrorist or Conspiracy Theorist campaign had created this huge hole in Norval Morrisseau’s catalogue raisonné when his genuine paintings were defamed as fakes. (See the Case of the Missing Paintings.)
Judge Martial put a resounding end to these utterly spurious claims.
What does that say about Donald Robinson who said he was overwhelmingly certain that Norval never, ever signed his paintings this way?
What does that say about his reliability as a Morrisseau authenticator?
What does that say about the reliability of the Kinsman Robinson Galleries label on a painting?
What does that say about the reliability of a Kinsman Robinson Galleries Certificate of Appraisal, or Authentication?
On Norval’s Affidavits of Forgery – “His (Robinson’s) testimony coupled with the testimony of other witnesses of Morrisseau’s Parkinson’s disease raises a significant doubt of the reliability of the statutory declarations… No expert testimony of capacity was proffered by the Plaintiff on such a key issue.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p36)
Judge Martial dealt a virtual death blow to any kind of reliability of the so-called Morrisseau Affidavits of Forgery, sent to many of Kinsman Robinson Galleries main business competitors from 2003-2005, and “bearing” Norval’s signature.
(A most curious fact emerged: no one had ever received an “original” affidavit; all were photocopies, which caused one forensic expert to say that it looked like a “cut and paste” job to him. Neither the Court nor Jonathan Sommer had originals either. The whole court case was based on a Xerox copy of Norval’s supposed say-so…)
Judge Martial chastised the Plaintiff’s legal counsel, Jonathan Sommer, for not providing a witness who could prove to the court that Norval was of sound mind and body when he supposedly signed his Affidavits. (they bore his signature)
It left the clear impression that Sommer did not because he could not. And he could not because Norval was not. As, in fact, many people who saw him at the time said; Norval had “left the building” years before, and was only momentarily – for minutes at a time, his brother Wolf testified – in touch with this world before he drifted off into his…
So much for all those Affidavits of Forgery all signed in 2003-2005, when Norval was clearly mentally gone…
On Robinson’s Self-professed Handwriting Expertise – In one fell swoop Judge Martial dismissed Donald Robinson’s self-professed expertise in handwriting analysis on the back of the paintings, or his syllabic examination on the front.
“Mr. Robinson was qualified as an expert in the area of valuation and appraisal. His testimony however overlapped into the area of handwriting and included an analysis of syllabic and English handwriting, areas for which he was not qualified.
“He has no formal training as an expert witness in handwriting analysis and his evidence is rejected.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p36)
It was another stern rebuff to Donald Robinson who claimed he was an expert in the handwriting of Norval Morrisseau.
All, of course self-taught, possibly from email or internet courses. Robinson’s degree is in electrical engineering; he has no credentials in art, fine art, handwriting analysis, or forensics, or even in any related fields.
No wonder Judge Martial dismissed and “rejected” his self-declared expertise.
On Robinson’s Other Testimony – Judge Martial dismissed Donald Robinson’s testimony and so-called expert report” as little more than a business tactic to corner the market and jack up prices for their gallery against the flood of Potter auction paintings.
“The Court finds it obvious that Potter would be seen as a significant competitor.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p6)
“Mr. Robinson’s evidence of Morellian analysis of the round versus elongated eyes in Morrisseau’s painting was confusing. His commentary on colour was also inconsistent.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p12)
“Mr. Robinson also testified as to his personal dealings with Morrisseau paintings. It was his view that there were a large number of forgeries. It was also clear that his personal views and business interests conflicted with his professional opinion since it was in his interest along with Mr. Vadas to maintain the price of Morrisseau paintings which would not otherwise be the case if the market was flooded with paintings sourced from Potter auctions.
“The Court rejects his expert report and his conclusion that the Morellian analysis, style, colour, and provenance all pointed to forgery.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p38)
Forgery or Not? – “After a careful consideration of all of the evidence, the Court finds that on the balance of probabilities that the painting “Wheel of Life” dated February 1979 is an original Norval Morrisseau and undoubtedly one of his most notorious paintings.
“The painting “Wheel of Life” is not a forgery. The Defendants did not misrepresent the authenticity of the painting.
“The Plaintiff’s claim is dismissed with costs fixed at $1,500.00” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar 25, 2013 p38)
Conclusion and Implications for Canada and Canadians
Judge Martial’s finding is total, absolute, and incontrovertibly decisive in all respects.
He courageously chose to come out swinging, when he could have hidden behind a judicial fog of indecision.
He is clearly a Great Canadian Cultural Hero for making the record clear about the biggest Hoax in Canadian fine art history that has damaged Canada’s art heritage for the past thirteen years.
And, in no uncertain terms, blew the entire Conspiracy Theory put forward by Donald Robinson and his business associates out of the water.
Judge Martial did the job a lazy, compliant, and complicit pool of journalists, whose job this should have been all along, utterly failed to do. Over some twelve years one gullible journalist after another just played along with the Hoax, just too lazy to do the research, to follow the evidence trail, to practice common sense, preferring just to take the easy way out with a story, in their eagerness to chase another shallow deadline with another superficial article.
Robinson was given some three days to testify, and had to prove only one painting – out of some 4,000 so-called forgeries he claimed existed, that he could have picked from – was a forgery.
Paintings he called ludicrously poor forgeries and easy to debunk. Yet he failed spectacularly, with his own choice, his own proof, on his own turf.
To the diehard Conspiracy Theorists, Judge Martial offered not a single float or life preserver of any kind, to aid the sinking Plaintiffs, anywhere in his 39 page judgment.
Judge Martial effectively put an end to the worst Hoax in the fine art history of Canada.
A Hoax that had destroyed millions in the fine art valuation of the art of Norval Morrisseau, Canada’s top Aboriginal artist.
A Hoax that had devalued, overall, the artistic heritage of ALL Canadian First Nations artists.
A Hoax that totally destroyed or hugely damaged numerous reputable Canadian fine art retailing businesses.
A Hoax that has destroyed some $40,000 of a retired little old lady’s pension.
A Hoax that sent some $200,000 of other wronged victim’s legal costs down the drain as they sought to protect themselves, their businesses, their paintings, and their livelihood, from malicious and defamatory attacks by diabolical Conspiracy Theorists.
(NOTE: With none of the main proponents of the Conspiracy Theory spending even a dime, beyond a subway token to go the the courthouse to give their testimony.)
A Hoax that contributed – significantly, I am certain – to the premature death of at least two people, including Globe journalist Val Ross, and Michael Moniz, the successful litigant who won a historic out-of-court award of some $25,000 from CTVglobemedia for defaming his authentic Morrisseau painting, purely on the wrong-headed say-so of Principal Conspiracy Theorists Aaron Milrad and Morrisseau companion Gabe Vadas.
Only a couple of weeks before he died I talked to Michael Moniz in a courtroom foyer. It was only the second time I had ever met him or talked to him. He told me that the attacks by the Conspiracy Theorists and their forgery accusations had taken a huge personal toll on him, his family, his business, and the stress – he was set to testify – was almost unbearable, with no end in sight.
Two weeks later, he was dead at 48, of a stroke, and I was attending his funeral paying my respects to a man who had done more than most to fight the Hoax that had destroyed so much of Canada’s fine art heritage. It was a fight which I am certain, helped to shorten his life.
The sordid “butcher’s bill” of this Conspiracy Theory leaves only one question unanswered:
Just what were Donald Robinson and his son Paul Robinson thinking, in May 2001, when they started this whole Conspiracy Theory supposedly about “thousands of forgeries by umpteen forgers?” And which they have been promoting ever since on their corporate blog, Principal Morrisseau Dealer…
Joe Otavnik says farewell to Michael. In 2008 these two single-minded men had launched court attacks against Principal Conspiracy Theorists, challenging them to “put up or shut up” after they called Morrisseau paintings they owned forgeries.
Joe tackled no lesser a target than the artist himself, Norval Morrisseau and his business manager, both of whom folded like a cheap suit, refused to face a judge, and paid Joe off for defaming his painting.
“While lesser men stood back, they stepped up to the plate, and at great personal cost, challenged sacred cows in our society. Because it was the right thing to do…”
Canada is a better place because they did so…