Arizona ArtBeat: Unidentified Artists

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We’ll take you to a new exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum that showcases work by unidentified artists, who created their works sometime between the 14th and 20th centuries.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona Art Beat contains an air of mystery. Shana Fischer and Gabe Rodriguez take to us a Phoenix art museum that asks you to play detective and solve a century old whodunnit or in this case who painted it.

Shana Fischer: It's Jerry Smith's job to know the background of every artist and painting understand his care. But in the case of the unidentified artist exhibit, that's not the case.

Jerry Smith: They are works from the collection that we don't know who made them.

Shana Fischer: About 25 paintings were brought up from the museum's basement. Some were donated to the museum. Others purchased. The team has tried to identify who created the works of art but it's not that easy. All they know is that they were all painted in Europe between the 14th and 20th centuries.

Jerry Smith: One of the things we do in trying to identify who made these works if we can at all is connoisseurship certainly, and that's from looking at a lot of works of art and people who are specialists in certain areas where we ask questions, we send images out sometimes to multiple experts in the field and get their opinions on things. And we just try to narrow it down. Oftentimes we might not be able to nail the exact artist but we get it to within a region or a follower of a certain artist.

Shana Fischer: Even though we don't know who the artists are, Smith says we can still appreciate the craftsmanship.

Jerry Smith: To look at each individual item, enjoy the brush work, enjoy the line, to look closely and try to think is this a professional artist making a study for possibly a later painting, or is this possibly a student work?

Shana Fischer: It was Smith's assistant Chelsea Ellsworth who came up with the idea for the exhibit. She also thought it would be fun to allow visitors to take photos of the artwork and post them on social media as another way to help crack the centuries old mystery.

Jerry Smith: We have not had anybody come forward and say, you know, I have done a lot of research. I did my masters thesis on this artist. I really think it's such and such because we haven't had that happen yet. But we hope it does.

Ted Simons: Unidentified artists is on display flew April 19 at the Phoenix art museum.

Jerry Smith: Curator of American & European Art, Phoenix Art Museum

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