, Salem, MA


November 20, 2012

McAllister: A man on the move


Caliga’s career was beginning to take off about the time he arrived in Salem, as is evidenced by his participation in many major American annual art shows of the era and the many books he would illustrate over the next decade. In 1903, the artist made national headlines when there was speculation that his painting “Guardian Angel,” then on exhibit in Chicago, had been copied directly from one done by the popular New Hampshire artist Abbott Thayer. Eventually, the mystery was solved and Caliga’s name was cleared. It turned out Thayer had never executed a similar painting, he had just been erroneously credited in an unnamed periodical as being the creator of Caliga’s “Guardian Angel.”

But the work would continue to haunt Caliga for years to come. The artist sued the publisher of the Chicago Tribune for printing, without his permission, an image of “Guardian Angel” in their newspaper. The case eventually was decided in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1909 in favor of the paper. Apparently, Caliga had copyrighted the painting under the “Guardian Angel” title in October 1901. A short time later, the artist made some minor changes to the angel’s wings in the painting, changed the title and filed a new copyright on the piece. Unfortunately for Caliga, the high court deemed the work to be essentially the same painting, and for that reason the second copyright, the basis for the artist’s lawsuit, was invalid.

Just as the court case was coming to an unhappy ending, so was Caliga’s marriage. The couple separated by 1910 and lived apart for three years before Caliga sued for divorce. The artist cited his undying respect for his wife and stated in the national press that he was freeing her to live the life she wanted to live. He admitted that his artistic temperament had been largely responsible for the failure of their relationship.

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