Hugo Larsen

False attributions to Hugo Larsen

I am of course both happy and proud when I see other people making an effort to promote Hugo Larsen's name and art.

But I am definitely not content when I see more or less professional art dealers and others trying to prosper from Hugo Larsen's good name and reputation when selling mediocre paintings that have absolutely nothing to do with Hugo Larsen.

During the last few years I have seen a number of false attributions to Hugo Larsen, strangely enough all in Germany. In most cases I have succeeded in persuading the seller to remove the attribution, but not always. Hence this page, warning prospective misusers of his name. I follow the market closely and I will react promptly if I see any attempt to abuse his name.

May 2012: Two false Hugo Larsen aquarels for sale on eBay
H.V.L.: Midsummer Eve, New Sweden, Maine, 1908

H.V.L.: Midsummer Eve, New Sweden, Maine, 1908

H.V. L.: Madawaska River, Maine, Oct 1908

H.V. L.: Madawaska River, Maine, 1908

For a few years after the first publications of dubious sales on this page, I was tempted to believe that German art dealers had become wiser and had stopped misusing good artists' names by attaching their names to mediocre paintings made by amateurs. But no.

This case concerns two aquarels, both made in Maine, New England, in 1908 and both signed with the monogram H.V.L.

These aquarels are not bad, although they are probably not made by an educated artist. They are nice, naive and harmless. The aquarel on top is marked "Mid Summer Eve Atmosphere" written in Danish, indicating that they may have been made by a Danish immigrant, perhaps settling as a farmer in New Sweden in Maine. He may have had an artistic vein and has sent aquarels back home to the family in Denmark of the beautiful landscapes in which he now lived. After some generations in the family, the aquarels probably ended up in a flea market where they were purchased by a German art dealer, in this case, owned by Danny Arndt.

If a piece of art is to obtain a decent price it has to be signed, preferably by a well-known artist. And what does a smart art dealer do with a couple of anonymous aquarels signed H.V.L.? He simply finds a contemporary artist matching the initials. Hugo Larsen, bearing the middle name Valdemar, was an obvious target. Thus, the aquarels were put on sale as painted by Hugo Larsen.

The problem is - as any art expert would see momentarily - that Hugo Larsen never made these aquarels. That is obvious from the composition, from the strokes used and partly from the choice of motives. But we can also take a look at the hard facts: Hugo Larsen was never in Maine, he spent the whole of 1908 in Denmark after having returned in the Fall of 1907 from his 3½ years long visit to Danish West Indies. He signed his paintings and drawings wih his name Hugo Larsen either in capital letters or as his written signature. When - during his early years - he used a monogram, it was the two letters H and L combined and without punctuation, see examples on the page describing Hugo Larsen's signatures. He never used his middle name Valdemar in any form on his art or in the private correspondance that I know of.

Even if ought to have realised this from the beginning, I wrote a polite mail to the owner Danny Arndt, pointing out the proofs that Hugo Larsen had not made these aquarels. At the same time I asked that his name be removed from these auctions/sales. It is of course sad for an art dealer to see the value of his goods shrink, but I know of no decent art dealer who wants to cheat his customers. So I expected a positive answer, but was disappointed. I received a prompt answer, but Danny Arndt was of the opinion that no one but Hugo Larsen himself could know whether he used the initials H.V.L. as signatures. In addition, Danny Arndt had read that Hugo Larsen stayed in Danish West Indies 1904-08 with a visit to USA[1]. Based on this, Danny Arndt concluded that Hugo Larsen had been in Maine during many months in 1908 and that he had made the aquarels.

I don't know whether Danny Arndt lacks a basic understanding of art[2] or if he lacks common decency. But if you consider trading with, I would in your place check very carefully whether the piece of art that interests you, actually matches the description - including attribution - that gives.

The sales ads on eBay as of May 2012:
Mid Summer Atmosphere in Maine, New Sweden 1908:
Madawaska River, Maine Oct 23, 1908:

November 2008: Yet another false Hugo Larsen painting for sale
H.V. Larsen: Marine, 1935

H.V. Larsen: Marine, 1935

It seems that Hugo Larsen has become particularly famous in Germany, since I started my project. At least, it is remarkable that no less than three false Hugo Larsen paintings have been on the market in Germany during the last year.

This particular painting is a classic motive. It has been used by an innumerable number of Danish artists, but never by Hugo Larsen. This one is painted by a mediocre painter who has signed it H.V. Larsen in 1935. Let the painter rest in peace.

The problem here is that the seller originally tried to associate the painting with the name and CV of Hugo Larsen. To the virtue of the seller he immediately removed the painting from eBay when I told him about his mistake.

The painting was for sale on eBay in the beginning of November 2008. If it reoccurs on eBay, you can find it here:

Sepember 2008: False Hugo Larsen for sale on ebay!
H. Larsen: Three Fishing Boats in High Sea

H. Larsen: Three Fishing Boats in High Sea

Well, well. Who would have imagined that Hugo Larsen would become sufficiently famous to have two fakes sold in his name during one year. Never the less, this is what happens in 2008. The first one on in Hamburg, the most recent one this marine on Although the signature says H. Larsen, one wonders what has lead the seller with the ambitious name kunsthaus-stuttgart to sell this piece of art in Hugo Larsen's name. Neither motive, technique nor signature bear any resemblance with those of Hugo Larsen. kunsthaus-stuttgart even stated that: "Wir garantieren für die Richtigkeit der Angaben sowie die Echtheit der angebotenen Artikel !" :-) Quite a remarkable statement, considering this piece of art is a fake. At least the attribution is. Fortunately, the seller removed the attribution when I asked him to and told him why.

If the auction has not been removed completely, you can see it on eBay: The auction ended on 5 Sep 2008 at appr. 20:12 CEDT.


[1] Weilbach's encyclopædia of Danish artists has this information, originally supplied by Hugo Larsen himself. He was wrong on one point as shown by my research: He did not stay in Danish West Indies until 1908, but left St. Thomas 10 Aug 1907 on a ticket to Copenhagen where he arrived by the end of August 1907. He was in Denmark all of 1908 and never crossed the Atlantic Ocean again. The visit to USA was a short stay in New Orleans, Louisiana, probably in 1904.
to note reference 1

[2] also has a genuine Hugo Larsen painting for sale. Nothing would be easier than comparing this piece of art with the two false ones. One does not need to be a big art expert to see that the artist is not the same.
to note reference 2