The Granddaughter’s Residual–UPDATE

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 6.57.01 PM

“Do your job and demand your compensation—but in that order.”  Cary Grant (from Brainyquote)

In two of my previous posts, the lack of resale compensation for visual artists, illustrators, photographers and sculptors was discussed.  The United States Copyright Office has now partially reversed the previous ruling on resale royalties for visual artists.  Visual artists have not had the same rights to royalties as composers, playwrights and screenwriters.  There is a bill coming up in congress and the senate to grant full residual rights but this move by the Copyright Office signals a hopeful direction.

Judith Dobrzynski has covered the issue for the Arts Journal blogs and has a full report on what these changes mean.  She received a report from the office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) on his upcoming bill.  Please go to her post for the full story here.  There are also links in her article for the U.S. Copyright Office report on the reversal.

“Droit de Suite” is the title of these laws in Europe that came about from the destitute state of the granddaughter of artist Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875).  Millet sold his painting, The Angelus for 1000 francs in 1865.  14 years after his death the painting was sold for between 553,000 francs and 800,000 francs depending on the report, while his family lived in abject poverty.  His granddaughter was found selling flowers on the streets of Paris to survive.  The laws only granted a very small amount to the artist and/or his family negating the complaints from art dealers about loss of compensation for the dealers and galleries.

The United Kingdom has very recently enacted a “Droit de Suite” law but the U.S. so far has not.  This hopeful sign from the U.S. Copyright Office may signal an approaching change in this process for artists in the U.S.  One can hope.  And one can also contact his/her representative and senator to suggest they support “Droit de Suite” in the U.S.  Perhaps visual artists dying in penury will soon be a thing of the past.  No more granddaughters selling flowers on the street for survival.

Previous posts by me on “Droit de Suite” laws:

Visual Residual

The Case of the Destitute Granddaughter

Other blog posts on the subject:

BCA Galleries

Adam Lilith’s Art House

 

The Case of the Destitute Granddaughter

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 6.57.01 PM

“They always say time changes things, but you always have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol (from Artpromotivate)

One of the most famous paintings by Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) is The Angelus, originally titled Prayer for the Potato Crop. The painting was commissioned in 1857 by American collector, Thomas Gold Appleton. When Appleton failed to take possession of the painting, the artist changed the name and later exhibited it in the Paris Salon of 1865 with the new name. In later years, the painting became the subject of several controversies not the least of which concerned the living situation of Millet’s family and especially that of one of his granddaughters.

Perhaps the most bizarre of the controversies surrounding The Angelus was instigated by Salvador Dali. Dali claimed Millet had intended hidden meaning in the position of the figures suggesting aggression on the part of the female figure and more. The basket situated between the figures, Dali believed was an over-painting of what was a child’s coffin originally. Dali stirred the controversy so much that eventually an x-ray revealed there had actually been a box of some kind in the under-painting though whether or not it was a coffin is unknown.

The artist, before his death, had sold the painting for a small sum. A decade later, a bidding war broke out between the US and France elevating the price of the painting considerably. The Louve attempted to purchase the painting sparking feelings of patriotism among the French people at the time. Varying accounts give the price the painting sold for as between 553,000 and 800,000 Francs.

Meanwhile, the artist’s family was sinking into abject poverty. While the bidding war and other factors were increasing the value of the painting, the artist’s family was reduced to a position of barely scratching out a living. The painting was again, in later years, sold for a huge sum of money. At the same time it was discovered that the artist’s granddaughter was selling flowers on the streets of Paris to sustain herself.

The plight of the granddaughter led to the enactment of the first “droit de suite” laws in France. The law basically said that an artist or his heirs until 70 years after his death were entitled to a small percentage of the resale of any of the artist’s works. While the dealer made millions, the artist or his family would receive between 1 and 3 percent of the sale. The granddaughter’s flower vending led the French government to consider whether visual artists were entitled to profit further from their works after the original sale. Millet’s granddaughter has once again come to the center of the debate as more governments today are considering “droit de suite” laws. The destitution of Millet’s granddaughter has led to a look at the destitution of many of today’s artists.

For more on Millet, his work and “Droit de Suite” laws, check out the following links:

http://www.jeanmillet.org/

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/index.php?id=851&L=1&tx_commentaire_pi1%5BshowUid%5D=339

http://www.sncao-syndicat.com/droit-de-suite/13ff0a14-21aa-4eeb-91be-42471071d842.aspx

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/dec/22/art-dealers-droit-de-suite

http://econ.duke.edu/uploads/assets/dje/2005/Deng.pdf

http://bcagalleries.wordpress.com/category/uncategorized/

http://adamlilithouse.blogspot.com/2012_03_01_archive.html