Art Dealer Says Peter Doig ‘Can’t Draw’ and This Painting Proves It

He says that he still likes his work, though.

Peter Doig. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The plaintiffs suing Peter Doig for blocking the sale of an artwork have some strong words for the artist on the eve of a major trial.

The case against Doig will take place on Monday in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, where the artist will have to prove that he didn’t create the disputed desert landscape below.

In 2013, a Canadian former corrections officer named Robert Fletcher and the Chicago art dealer Peter Bartlow, to whom Fletcher consigned the work, filed a lawsuit against the artist for denying the canvas was his own. Fletcher claims that he bought the 1976 work for $100 from Peter Doige (spelled with an ‘e’), which the artist painted while he was incarcerated at the Thunder Bay Correctional Center in Northwestern Ontario. Doig, however, told the New York Times in July that the pair have the wrong man: He didn’t paint the artwork, was never imprisoned, and has never even been to Thunder Bay.

The artist was born in Edinburgh in 1959, and moved to Canada when he was seven years old. He claims he grew up in Toronto. In order to paint the landscape, the artist would have been a teenager at the time, and almost 900 miles from home. Fletcher and Bartlow remain unfazed, however.

The painting in question depicts a desert landscape. Photo: ARIS Title ‏@ARIS_ArgoGroup via Twitter.

The disputed painting in question depicts a desert landscape. Photo: ARIS Title ‏@ARIS_ArgoGroup via Twitter.

Bartlow, who helped bring the case against the artist, told artnet News in a phone interview that he believed Doig’s motive in disavowing the work is not to deny a criminal past but to disguise the fact that “he can’t draw.”

Everybody in the art world thinks he’s telling the truth, and thinks I’m crazy, but people outside of the art world are skeptical… I know why he did it [disavowed the painting]. He did it because he can’t draw. Everything he does is projected, and he sketches it from the picture…This painting we have proves it.

The Chicago dealer insists that Doig relies on using projections on the canvas. “No critic has ever written this about it,” he acknowledged. “The only reason I did is that I have this book of his by Phaidon of the painting in the Canadian National Gallery, and I was looking at it upside down. There’s a couple of shapes in it that are the same shapes located in our painting. I could see what he did.”

Barlow goes on to describe Doig as a “sociopath,” and added that “his paintings play on words for LSD. I think he doesn’t care if anybody knows he got busted for drugs. It’s all about his art.” In his closing remark he said, “I like his work though.”

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs’ attorney, William F. Zieske, has denied the artist’s recent accusations of threats he says were made against him, as reported by the German daily Die Zeit. “The allegation is untrue,” Zieske simply told artnet News in an email.

Fletcher and Bartlow will face Doig in court on Monday, and are seeking “damages of at least $7 million,” says Bartlow.

A representative from Doig’s gallery was not available for immediate comment.


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