Owner of controversial painting speaks out on its removal

In December, Jane and Dick Resnick talked to The Times about The Great Minds Collection, on display at The Trumbull Library. (Kate Czaplinski photo)
In December, Jane and Dick Resnick talked to The Times about The Great Minds Collection, on display at The Trumbull Library. (Kate Czaplinski photo)

Trumbull resident Richard Resnick, who commissioned a painting that is causing controversy at The Trumbull Library, is speaking out about the decision made by First Selectman Tim Herbst to take it down.

"Onward We March," an acrylic painting on 48" x 96" canvas by Robin Morris was hanging at the Trumbull Library until the first selectman had it taken down.
“Onward We March,” an acrylic painting on 48″ x 96″ canvas by Robin Morris was hanging at the Trumbull Library until the first selectman had it taken down.

Resnick believes that copyright infringement is not the real concern behind the painting coming down.

“In my opinion, this was done because of political pressures and he may personally object to the painting,” Resnick said of Herbst.

The painting, described as “Women United: From Abigail Adams to Gloria Steinem” depicts several famous women in history, including Mother Teresa, Abigail Adams, Clara Barton, Gloria Steinem, Betty Freidan and Margaret Sanger (See original story here). It was painted by Robin Morris and one of 33 on display as part of The Great Minds Collection, commissioned by Richard and Jane Resnick. The library began receiving some letters last month from those who found the painting offensive and wanted it taken down, including Pastor Brian Gannon of St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church.

Herbst has said that claims of copyright infringement, for use of Mother Teresa’s image, are the real concerns around the painting and he was acting on advice from legal counsel.

Resnick’s attorney disagrees there would be an infringement. No copyright issues have been raised around the collection before, even though it features paintings of many famous people, including Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King Jr. and more, Resnick said. Herbst also sent a photo of the painting to the media and posted it on the town website, with a press release, which casts doubt on copyright concerns, Resnick said.

Resnick has said he will take full legal responsibility for the collection, in order to the protect the town. Herbst has said a formal agreement needs to be made in order for the collection to keep going.

Resnick also defended the message of the painting.

“Its subject is the contributions of women who worked for equal rights and for the creation of a more humane world,” Resnick wrote in response to Pastor Gannon’s letter. “Each individual woman stands on her own accomplishments and relevance to important women’s issues and humanitarian causes, unrelated to each other. I might not agree with all of the important and perhaps controversial women’s movement issues but I respect their right to be evaluated on their own merits, free of religious doctrine.”

Resnick notes that many other figures in the collection are controversial, but it’s about starting a dialogue.

“Does the Pastor think we should remove Darwin from the Great Minds Collection because he might disagree with his scientific beliefs, or Marx, or perhaps Freud,” Resnick asks in his response. “I hope not. I am more than happy to sit down with Pastor Gannon to explain the painting’s real message and to clear up any misunderstandings.”

A description that accompanies the painting reads, in part: “The artwork is purposely incomplete in scope, for the challenges remain. Indeed, the painting is a call for continued commitment, for greater involvement by all who have the capacity to be “great minds” for a purpose that will benefit mankind. The women’s faces are determined and serious for their causes are of serious purpose.”