Charlatanism, Poetry and Art

Hoaxes happen often in Poetry and in Art - lost works by masters such as Shakespeare and Vermeer are rediscovered only to be revealed as frauds by stylistic or forensic analysis. For the hoax to work the copied master needs to be unavailable for comment - either by being dead or by never existing. Literary examples of the latter include Ossian (Scotland) Ern Malley (Australia) and more recently Araki Yasusada (Japan) - all created by skillful hoaxers who are frequently surprised that their work is taken seriously.

Writers too develop their characters and self-promote. They may invent personae and pastiche works. They may even identify with the persona and take the persona seriously. They flourish in similar environments to those where hoaxes profilerate. They induce criticism because to some their fame or wealth seems undeserved, even fraudulent, distracting attention from the quality of the work itself. Such criticism is enflamed by artistic flamboyance or media hype. The critics and members of the public with few (typically one) criteria of judgement - verisimilitude, for instance - are amongst the most vociferous. The supposed charlatans sometimes emerge as important artists, or at least (as with Dali) the case remains open, so in ideal conditions one doesn't want to be too quick in starving these artists of funding. Nevertheless, with competition for public money increasing, it's worth exploring the public reception of "charlatans", in particular in Art and Poetry.

The potential for charlatanism in Modern Art is greater than in Modern Poetry, and public reaction is greater. The reasons for this fall into 3 main categories -