Fox signed and unsigned “maybes” are in-house terms used by Fox collectors. What is this all about?
In order for an image to be identified and substantiated as painted by R. Atkinson Fox, Fox’s signature had to appear on the image, a direct attribution to Fox or found in a publishing company’s painting records. All others not meeting this criteria, but strongly looking like a Fox image, are typically called “Fox maybes.”
Over the years of the ‘Fox Hunt’ many Fox collectors began to notice images appearing as an authentic Fox image, however was either unsigned or unattributed to any specific artist. These were given the term “Fox unsigned maybes”.
Other Fox look-alikes which have signatures (with other names) are termed “Fox signed maybes”. It was well-known that Fox used pseudonyms creating speculation that these “signed maybes” were another pseudonym for Fox.
To date, 16 known pseudonyms have been proven to have been used by Fox. But why did Fox not use his own name in signing a painting?
Many reasons abound. Fox’s children have stated that when their dad did not like a scene he painted, he did not sign it with his name. Also, it has been noted when Fox began his career painting for the publishing companies (1900) he was not known, therefore the publishers asked Fox to sign with another name. Also, it was discovered that Fox copied from other well-known artists (enhancing their original work or using a portion of it) and therefore the image was attributed to the artist, not Fox. Portions of the well-known artists name may have continued to be used by Fox in subsequent paintings.
In some cases, speculation exists that some publishers did not wish for their clients to know they had so few artists working for them, therefore asked their artists to use pseudonyms. In addition, many prints were produced without the artist name or attributed to an artist.
Fox painted for many publishers creating speculation he did not wish for them to know he was working for their competition. Fox’s ego apparently was not in the way… his goal was to produce as many paintings as he could in order to support his family.
Fox’s humor also played a part in his decision on the name or fake name, to use. Several prints have been found with misspellings of his own name. And, it is apparent Fox used other names to honor either family members or close friends.
All these examples lead to the conclusion and speculation that Fox used many pseudonyms. The Fox Society has identified at least 40 signed maybes and many more unsigned maybes.
Below we show three examples- from left to right, a proven Fox pseudonym (Geo White) , a Fox “signed maybe” (C. Weeks), and an “unsigned Fox maybe”. See the similarities of each. A night scene with the moon shinning through the clouds, a camp fire lighting up the camper, a waterfall or lake with a canoeists in the background, the fallen log, the roughness of the bark on the trees – all resembles Fox’s style of painting.
Potential maybes, especially the pseudonyms creates interest, mystery and speculation in the collecting of R. A. Fox’s art.