Lawsuit Erupts Over George Inness Painting Consignment

  • “Shades of Evening,” an 1877 oil painting by American landscape artist George Inness

    “Shades of Evening,” an 1877 oil painting by American landscape artist George Inness

    via Courthouse New Service

An 1877 landscape painting by American artist George Inness is at the center of a dispute over its consigment to a gallery by the family's matriarch.

Tennessee couple Richard and Becky Hearty filed a complaint in Cleveland. They contend that Richard J. Hearty Sr. gifted the piece to son Hearty and his wife in the early 1990s, and that they did not authorize the artwork's sale.

The couple say they kept the painting, titled "Shades of Evening," in storage for the last five years at the Akron, Ohio, home of Hearty’s mother, Mary Hearty.

The Heartys had changed their mind about a $270,000 consignment deal in 2012 with the Bonfoey Gallery in Cleveland, opting instead to store the work at the elderly mother's home. 

In November, the couple learned that Richard Moore of Bonfoey Gallery had a negotiated a far different consignment deal with 94-year-old Mary Hearty, and without their consent, the painting had a buyer through a Florida dealer, Neil Morris.

The complaint accuses the art dealers of replevin, conversion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, breach of bailment, civil theft and civil conspiracy.

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