Scarlet Cummings

Imitation, Emulation, and the Meaning of Originality in Painting Versus Cinema

How do issues of authorship and originality function within fine art and cinema? What are the similarities between painting and film? What are the fundamental differences, especially those relating to the meaning and worth of emulation within the two mediums? My research will attempt to answer these questions using two case studies Orson Welles 1973 film F for Fake, and the paintings of the infamous Elmyr de Hory, Hungarian art forger extraordinaire who imitated the style of countless painters (Degas, Derain, Dufy, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, and Vlaminck to name a few), and travelled the world painting counterfeits in hotel rooms along the way, prompting a man hunt for one of art historys greatest and most prolific art forgers.

Using postmodernist texts as a foundation and employing rigorous filmic and formal analyses of F for Fake and Elmyr de Horys forgeries respectively, my research will challenge prevailing conceptions of the integrity of originality within art history, identify, clarify, and situate questions of personality and ego within the construction of authorship, and investigate the meaning of ethics and authenticity in documentary film. I hope my research will serve as a celebration of the genius of Orson Welles in the year 2015, his centennial, and also provide a comparative framework of authorship between fine arts and cinema for future use by others.

Message to Sponsor

Thank you to the Leadership Fund donors, SURF, and Professor Eileen Jones for supporting me in this wonderful opportunity. I am very grateful to be able to perform research full-time over the summer.
  • Major: History of Art, Film Studies
  • Sponsor: Leadership
  • Mentor: Eileen Jones, Film, Rhetoric