Saturday, December 23, 2017

Who owns the reproduction rights on a painting?

I've long wondered if, when I buy a painting from an artist, have I also implicitly bought out the rights to reproduce the art for commercial purposes? 

For instance, these paintings by Fejes, do I have the right to make and publish copies of them?  This is more of a question of principle than of practicality since realistically, I doubt there's any value in these paintings or if anyone would object if I found a way to make money on them.

Still, the question stands. As background, a few points:

1.   Many artists make a point of having a publisher so that their paintings are sold as originals, as limited edition numbered prints, and in larger numbers as prints on canvas or paintings.  In these cases, I think the publisher's role would be to protect the artists rights by objecting to anyone who independently started printing and publishing the artists work.  In these cases, the artist has probably contractually distinguished between selling the original painting and the reproduction rights.

2.   Books, digital images, videos, films, and albums (CDs, records, and digital) are usually sold with an accompanying copyright notice which limits the rights of the purchaser to using the the materials for non commercial purposes and limiting making copies to back-ups.  However, I've never bought a painting (or sculpture) that came with any such message stuck on the back or as part of the receipt. I've asked a few times at galleries when I bought or been shopping about what rights they are selling. In every case, they had no answer and in most cases, they thought that I was crazy just for asking.

3. The difference between a copyrighted work with all rights reserved versus a work-for-hire with all commercial rights sitting none with the person doing the work but with the entity paying for the work. I've worked in the educational publishing and video game development businesses for two decades now and I've long been aware that the developer needs to contract with all the programmers, artists, musicians, and designers to make it clear that they are hired to work on a work-for-hire basis with all the copyright and commercial rights accumulating in the entity paying for the work, not in the people paid to do it.

4. Historically, these work-for-hire contracts can sometimes be negated by courts but only in extreme cases. The one that I have read about was Chorus Line, where many hungry talented dancers were asked as part of an audition for a play, to tell their personal story. These stories were used as the basis for the massively successful Chorus Line play and movie and albums.  Court cases through the decades on behalf of the dancers have argued with some success that they should be compensated as authors with some royalties. I think they have won significant amounts on the basis that the play often used their stories somewhat literally as the script which was not envisaged at all as they auditioned for a part as a dancer.

5.  When a painting hangs in a museum, even a contemporary one still subject to copyright law, the museum often sells postcards and posters of the art.  But, I doubt any royalties are paid. Is this the precedent that the physical owner of a work of art has the rights unless they have been distributed separately by the artist?

Anyone know?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Juan Castilla, Spanish Artist in Paris

This post is not about Emerik Fejes, it's a quick post about an artist named Juan Castilla, a contemporary Spanish artist who has been in Paris since 964.  I bought a painting of his on wood in Paris around 1988 for 6500F, especes. It's around 18 by 24 inches and in the original frame.  The painting name from the original receipt is "jeune femme fleurs cheveux."

AT the time, I very much liked his art and I visited two or three galleries around Paris that stocked it. I had a friend who had also bought his work.  I would have liked to buy more.

I bought it from L'Art en Depot, 21, rue saint-sulpice, 75006 Paris.
I've found a website of his,, and I thought I'd contact them.

Juan Castilla painting
Juan Castilla painting, 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Museum Exhibit Guide with Emerik Fejes, Bought in 79

I bought this guide in 1979 in the summer in Zagreb from the Primitive Art Museum.  I hope nobody minds me reproducing parts of it.

It might now be known as the Croatian Museum of Naive Art.

Quoting the Croatian Naive Art Museum's Website

In 1952, the Peasant Art Gallery was founded in Zagreb; from 1956 it operated under the name of the Gallery of Primitive Art, while since 1994, in line with a decision by the Croatian Parliament, its title has been the Croatian Museum of Naive Art. From the very beginning the establishment was organized and run according to strict museological principles, and is thus deemed to be the world’s first museum of naive art.

The Croatian Museum of Naive Art holds more than 1,600 works of art – paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints – mainly by Croatian artists.

The permanent display of the Museum was established according to the maxim:Naive Art as a Segment of Modern Art. Some eighty anthology-piece paintings and sculptures of a score of classics of the Croatian Naive are on display, from the early thirties to the 1980s. The focus is on Croatian artists – of the celebrated Hlebine School, and a few of the more highly-valued independent artists. In conjunction with their works, artworks of significant artists of other nations are also on show.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Buying Emerik Fejes Paintings

The following story is excerpted from an Oral History of Burton Edelson, March 6, 2001...This section is in response to a question suggested by Daniel Edelson: 

His name was Emerik Fejes. We visited him in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia in 1967 (near Zagreb). Betty and I had gone to Belgrade for an international space conference that was being held there. That was behind the iron curtain in those days. A friend, Irwin Hersey who was at the conference, was in the art world and had known Fejes. He had bought some paintings from him and had them in his hotel room. So we went up to his room and he showed us his paintings. They were terrific. We liked them. He suggested we go to Novi Sad and get some of our own.

So Betty and I and a guy by the name of Don Sandler, who was working for Hughes Aircraft Company and who had a little Porsche automobile, decided we would drive to Novi Sad, about 100 kilometers from Belgrade, but it took several hours to get there. We had to go on a primitive dirt road. We found Fejes and his wife in an upper floor apartment. Fejes was a retired button maker. He started painting on his own. He was a complete primitive, a naive as they say. He painted with his paints in little bottle caps, and he painted with the back of a paper match.  Fejes had a whole pile of paintings in his apartment. We picked out one that we liked and asked him how much it was. He didn’t speak English but knew a little German. So we used quite a bit of sign language. There was some confusion because they had just changed from old dinars to new dinars, and it was either 100 to 1 or 1,000 to 1. The dinar wasn’t worth much, so we weren’t quite sure what it was. We thought we were buying one painting, but he took ten of them and gave them to us for the amount of money that we had. I later figured out that we paid about $13.00 apiece for them, and he was glad to get it. These were paintings that he’d done from post cards. He had never traveled, never been anyplace, and his wife was kind of intolerant of what he was doing until he was discovered. She had thrown out a lot of his old paintings.

We brought the paintings back to London and my colleague there, Jack Carter, admired them. So I said, “Well, we probably can get some more.” So I wrote to a Marine Corp captain that I met who was in the embassy and sent him a check for $200.00--Jack put in $100.00 and I put in $100.00--and asked him if he would go to Novi Sad and buy some paintings from Fejes. We gave him some post cards for him to copy which he wouldn’t copy, but he did get paintings from him. So all together we had 23 I think.

We brought the Fejes paintings back to the U.S. with us. There was an art gallery in New York, the St. Etienne Gallery, run by Otto Kallir who handled primitives. He discovered Grandma Moses. He had some Fejes paintings for sale at $500 each, but he personally didn’t like them and they weren’t selling very well. He put our paintings up for sale in his gallery but they didn’t sell. Then we displayed them a couple of other places and they still didn’t sell. Then one day I got a telephone call from Dr. Kallir and he said, “Do you still have those Fejeses? How many do you have?”

I said, “Yes, I do. I have eleven of them left.”

He said, “Well, I’ll buy them all. We have a German dealer who is buying them.”

So I wrapped them up and sent them up to him, and he sent me $500 apiece for them. So I got a check for $5,500. Some of it was Jack’s and some of it was mine. I remember stopping on the way home after I got the check and buying a case of champagne.

I think Fejes was written up in a magazine as well.

Yes, he has been over the years. I don’t know whether Yugoslav primitives are still in demand or not. He’s not one of the top Yugoslav painters, but he’s well enough known so that he’s in many collections. His paintings now sell for several thousand dollars.

More background
This excerpted from an Oral History of Burton Edelson, March 6, 2001, draft 3.....The following is an interview with Burt Edelson. The interview is taking place on Tuesday, March 6, 2001 in Burt’s home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The interviewer is Ellen Robinson Epstein. These tapes were commissioned by Burt in honor of his 75th birthday.

One of the questions that Danny sent in was that in Yugoslavia you discovered a painter that you liked, who you actually sent me to see, which I had totally forgotten about until Danny sent this question in.

I sent you to see?

Yes, because I went to Yugoslavia in 1968 and you had just found him. You said, “Oh, go meet him.”

And did you?


I had forgotten that, too.

I had totally forgotten about it. He said that he wants you to tell the story about purchasing these paintings.

Okay. I can tell you that quickly. His name was Emerik Fejes. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mont Saint Michael by Emerik Fejes

Fejes Painting of Mont St Michael
This Fejes painting hangs in my living room. It is of Mont St Michael which I have visited several times. It would be cool to put up one of my pictures next to it to compare the painting and a photograph.

It was bought directly from Emeric (Emerik?) Fejes in 1967 in what was then Yugoslavia. It was given to a family member (Raggy), now deceased, and I secured it from her estate.

All the paintings pictured in this blog, unless otherwise labelled, are from the original paintings that my parents bought directly from Fejes.  The paintings themselves were sold later but I think we retained the rights to reproduce them digitally. Actually, I have no idea.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Moscow's Red Square by Emerik Fejes

Moscow's Red Square by Emerik Fejes.

I have been to Moscow and Red Square but not recently. I was there in 1979. Lenin was on display in a coffin. I wonder if he still is?

Fejes must have painted this painting like the others, from a black and white picture postcard that he got somehow.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fejes' Painting of Big Ben in London

I would love to have this one. Its Fejes painting of the House of Parliment and the Big Ben clock in London.