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LETTER TO THE EDITOR
by Harry Moses
 
To the Editors:

I am the filmmaker who was widely quoted in Thomas Hoving’s article, "The Fate of the $5 Pollock," Nov. 5, 2008. The article, like Mr. Hoving himself, is vastly entertaining, but has most of its facts wrong.

1. Hoving says that "Pollock never used acrylics." Not true. As my documentary shows, scrapings from paint on the floor of Pollock’s studio in East Hampton were sent for analysis to a scientist in London, Dr. Nicholas Eastaugh, whose work involves the chemical analysis of paint. Eastaugh examined the scrapings and found the presence of acrylics.

2. Hoving refers to the fingerprint that forensic scientist Peter Paul Biro found on the back of the canvas in question as being "blue," "all-but invisible" and "oversized." The print is black, quite visible and normal in size. (Biro had earlier found an oversized print on a 1950 Pollock canvas called Red Painting no. 4 but rejected it as a means of comparison because it was abnormally large. That is the story I recounted to Mr. Hoving, when I interviewed him, which is also in my film.)

3. Hoving writes that "Moses confided to me that Paul Biro believed he’d found the same fingerprint on a Pollock he personally owned." What I told Mr. Hoving was that Mr. Biro had been sent for analysis a possible Pollock with a fingerprint on it, which Biro had not yet fully examined. If Mr. Biro does own a Jackson Pollock, it is news to me and, I dare say, to Mr. Biro.

Hoving’s article then goes on to cast considerable aspersions on Mr. Biro, the overall effect of which portray him as scheming and devious. Having spent considerable time with Mr. Biro, I can report that I found him honest and straightforward. You can watch my film and judge for yourself.

Finally, Hoving’s article shows a picture of a man identified as "Harry Moses, director of Who the %$#! Is Jackson Pollock? (2006)." The caption got the title and the date right but the man in the photo is someone else.

Sincerely,
Harry Moses
Writer, director and producer, Who the %$#! is Jackson Pollock?


Thomas Hoving replies: Harry Moses is correct: I did get some things wrong in the Pollock piece. But I also got the crucial things right.

When I examined the Horton Pollock in the New York warehouse, he showed me a report from a group with the highest Pollock expertise that the paints were acrylics and that the canvas had been commercially sized. My study of the picture supported those findings. There may be miniscule traces of acrylic on the floor of Pollock’s Long Island studio, as Harry Moses says, but so what? Of all genuine Pollocks with proven provenances and histories, none are painted in acrylic and none are commercially sized.

Moses is right: the fingerprint on the back of the Horton picture is black and normal size. I confused this with the oversized print on the Devoe paint can in the Pollock studio.

In my notes of the long interview in my apartment with Harry Moses a few years ago I jotted that another Pollock had come into Mr. Biro’s hands. I stupidly assumed it belonged to Mr. Biro. Sorry about that.

I didn’t cast aspersions on Mr. Biro. I simply pointed out the fundamental flaw of Mr. Biro’s scientific analysis. This is what I said repeatedly to Mr. Moses in our long and wide-ranging interview (a vital part of which he chose not to use in his film -- that the canvas is commercially sized). Since Jackson Pollock was never fingerprinted, to authenticate pictures from unknown fingerprints no matter where they show up may be science, but it’s giddy science.

As for the photograph of Harry Moses, well, it came from the Internet Movie Database page for the Pollock movie.

Bottom line: I apologize for my inaccuracies, which, however, do absolutely nothing to change the true state of Teri Horton’s painting: it was not painted by Jackson Pollock.


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