Che: An Irish Tall Tale

Here’s a perfect example of why “news” distributed by mainstream sources should always be taken with a grain of salt. The Press Association, “the UK leader in news and sports information,” distributed a news release on Feb. 22nd that was picked up by a number of news websites, like the Manchester Evening News. The story concerns a painting of singer Sinead O’Connor created by artist Jim Fitzpatrick. The Press Association story, titled Naked Sinead portrait goes on sale, reported that Fitzpatrick’s painting, Strange Days (portraying Sinead reclining on a purple sheet and wearing only a necklace and stockings), was sold at Dublin’s Whyte’s Auctioneers for 15,000 Euros.

The inaccurate part of the story as reported by The Press Association and picked up by various news outlets is as follows; “The painting is by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, the creator of the iconic monochrome picture of revolutionary Che Guevara.” That statement is entirely incorrect. The man responsible for the famous image of Che the communist ideolog was famed Cuban photographer, Alberto Korda (1928-2001). No doubt The Press Association’s erroneous information can be attributed to a lack of fact checking.

The news agency assumed Jim Fitzpatrick to be telling the truth when on his website he asserted that his earliest work was “the legendary Che Guevara poster of 1968 published just before his death in Bolivia.” Aside from the fact that Che was killed in 1967, Korda’s photo had already been translated into poster form internationally as early as 1967. By 1968 there were so many artists making Che posters based on Korda’s photo that Fitzpatrick is very lucky indeed to have made the “legendary” one. Fitzpatrick would be closer to the truth if he stated he was the first in Ireland to make a poster of Che, but it still would have been from Korda’s photo.

Fitzpatrick offhandedly remarked on his website that his poster was “based on a photograph by a then unknown Cuban photographer,” but the time had long since past when Korda was unknown. Fitzpatrick asks that viewers of his online art “remember to acknowledge my copyright at all times,” an entitlement he didn’t extend to the internationally famous Alberto Korda. I wrote a polite letter to The Press Association informing them of their error, but they did not reply.

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