What’s an attribution, you ask? It’s the act of ascribing an artwork to a particular artist (if the painting isn’t signed) or as a depiction of a particular event (if it isn’t specifically identified by the artist). To attribute a painting to an artist one must be very knowledgeable about the artist’s oeuvre. To make an attribution to an event one must be a VERY careful and detail-oriented researcher. Thankfully, the attribution I had to kill wasn’t to remove the artist; I was forced to remove the attribution to an event because it doesn’t appear that much research took place before the attribution was made.
The affected work is a beautiful painting by marine artist James Edward Buttersworth. It depicts the schooner Magic and sloop Gracie leading a fleet of six yachts down the Hudson River and around the tip of Manhattan on a partly cloudy morning (we know it’s morning because of the position of the sun). A fairly famous piece, this painting graced the cover of the 1994 reprint of Rudolph J. Schaefer’s seminal work “J. E. Buttersworth 19th-Century Marine Painter.” At some point in the past, probably sometime before 1975, the scene was determined to be the annual regatta of the New York Yacht Club held on June 22, 1871. The slow and painful death of this attribution began when I was asked to provide historical details about the painting so it could be intelligently discussed during special events.