Mary Hicks, inspiration of Pavarotti's art

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The Independent Online
IT IS now 14 years since the revered Italian opera star Luciano Pavarotti spent a sleepless night consumed by an inexplicable mania to paint. 'I felt mysterious sensations,' he later recalled. 'The desire to start painting was irresistible; I felt I had to satisfy this at all costs.'

Seized by this new passion, the tenor has since spent many off- stage hours churning out dozens of pictures, some of which he has exhibited around the world, from Stockholm to Tokyo. More than 20 of his works have been reproduced as silk-screen prints and marketed, by an Italian company, for some dollars 25,000 ( pounds 17,000) a set.

One American reviewer wrote that his paintings were as 'exuberant and unstudied as his performances seem . . . At a glance his style is naive, but it's a misleading impression caused by artful artlessness.'

However, a shadow has fallen across the Pavarotti canvas. Mary Hicks, 87, a former art shop worker, is the author of a how-to- paint guide called My Travels in Europe, published in 1972.

Ms Hicks, who now lives on social security in Colorado, was distressed to discover that three of Pavarotti's pictures are copied directly from her book, scenes that she painted during a trip to Europe during the 1960s.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Ms Hicks's grandson has researched Pavarotti's works, unearthing numerous articles about the paintings in which his grandmother's pictures are reproduced without acknowledgement. Although Ms Hicks has not received a penny from Pavarotti, she reportedly wants neither money, nor a courtroom battle, nor even an apology. She has said she just wants some recognition 'that his originals are my originals'.

Pavarotti's lawyer, Elliot Hoffman, is dismissive of the affair: 'Mr Pavarotti has acknowledged his gratitude to Miss Hicks both in newspapers and on television.' After all the whole point of an (uncopyrighted) how-to-paint book is to copy the pictures.