Peter Doig, a well-regarded painter whose works sell for large sums at auction, is set to receive $2.53 million in a lawsuit concerning a 1976 painting that he claims not to have made.
The suit was brought by a former corrections officer who alleged that Doig made the work while in prison, a claim that the artist denied. While a judge ruled in 2016 that Doig did not paint the work, it wasn’t until this month that the officer and his lawyer were ordered to pay him. News of the judgment was first reported by the New York Times this week.
Judge Gary Feinerman, of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, wrote in his judgment that the former corrections officer and his lawyer had gone after Doig “without an objectively reasonable basis and made reckless or misleading allegations in [their] complaint.”
The former corrections officer, Robert Fletcher, had initially planned to sell the work through the Bartlow Gallery in Chicago, which had also been a plaintiff in the case. In 2013 Fletcher and Bartlow Gallery sued Doig in an attempt to get his name attached to the painting, and said that the artist had purposely lied in order to keep them from selling the work.
Fletcher said he had first met Doig during the ’70s, and then again when Doig was serving a brief sentence for LSD possession at the correctional center where Fletcher worked. Fletcher went on to claim that he acted as Doig’s parole officer, and that a friend had noticed that the painting, which was allegedly hanging in Fletcher’s house, had a signature that read “Pete Doige 76.”
But Doig said he’d never been incarcerated; that he’d never been to Lakehead University, the Canada school where Fletcher claimed to have encountered the artist; and that he was not the work’s author. Adding to the intrigue was what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity: Doig’s lawyers presented evidence that the painting was actually by Peter Edward Doige, whose sister said he had attended Lakehead and that he had at one point been an inmate at a nearby correctional center.
“We are relieved to finally bring this absurd case to a just conclusion,” Matthew S. Dontzin, a lawyer for Doig, told the Times.
William F. Zieske, a lawyer for Fletcher and Bartlow Gallery, said in an interview with the Times that the lawsuit “will chill the inclination of lawyers to take on cases like this against those who have literally unlimited means at their disposal.”