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Robert Stupack: “Breaking Home Ties”

When you are sure about something, pay no attention to the non-believers and naysayers. Regardless of what they say, do not let them dissuade you from continuing along the path to your goal. As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Stupack. Robert Stupack […]

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When you are sure about something, pay no attention to the non-believers and naysayers. Regardless of what they say, do not let them dissuade you from continuing along the path to your goal.


As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Stupack.

Robert Stupack is an art aficionado who decided to invest in a Norman Rockwell painting in 1999, one of Rockwell’s studio in West Arlington, Vermont, painted after his studio burned in 1943.

It was a combination of curiosity, determination, tenacity and his professional background as a senior audit and tax professional, accustomed to paying conscientious attention to detail and verifying facts, that led to the answers that enabled him to successfully make a patent application for authenticating all Norman Rockwell paintings since 1942.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

At two points in my life, once as a teenager and then a second time in my late 30s, I took standardized Vocational testing. This test evaluates your personality and interests based upon your answers to specific questions. When the responses are analyzed, a report provides general job categories and particular occupations within those categories for which you are best suited. Purportedly, the results of this test do not change much throughout a lifetime, and both times, my scores indicated that I was best suited for positions within the “Adventurer” classification.

After graduating from Southside High School in Rockville Center, NY, I went to Penn State University and majored in Accounting. I was fortunate to be one of only two students selected for an internship with Price Waterhouse in New York City during the winter trimester of my senior year. Before returning to PSU, I accepted a full-time position starting in September that year. Public Accounting is not the most adventurous work. Still, I kept my nose to the grindstone, and within five years, I became a Senior Accountant. At that point, headhunters began calling, and eventually, I accepted a new position as a Senior Financial Analyst with Celanese Corporation in New York. In the early 1980s, US Treasury bond rates were around 15%, and the US economy was in a sad state due to the soaring cost of oil. After only nine months at Celanese, there were massive layoffs, and I found myself amongst the unemployed.

I spent several months traveling and contemplating what I wanted to do next. I decided that I would move to California and start over in the Technology sector or the Financial Markets. It took several months of searching until I was offered a position as a Fixed Income salesman in the Bank Service Department of L.F. Rothschild, Unterberg, Tobin. The nature of Wall Street was much more in line with the Adventure occupations suggested by the vocational testing! I liked what I was doing and started earning some big bucks.

In 1986, I was able to buy a house in Marin County. Everything was going smoothly until the fall of 1989 when the stock market crashed, and Rothschild went bankrupt overnight. There is a scene in the film, “The Wolf of Wall Street” about that fateful day.

I bounced around under-employed for a couple of years at minimum wage jobs, so I decided to take the vocational tests a second time. The results were nearly identical to the first round of testing, indicating that I was best suited for adventurous occupations. I loved what I did in the Brokerage Industry, and realized that returning to it would be the best choice. My securities licenses had expired, and I would need to retake the tests, but I moved forward with my plan. Within a couple of months, I landed a new job as a Broker trainee for Shearson Lehman Brothers. For the next five years, I worked six days per work, making 4,000 cold-calls each month until I began earning as much money as I was before Rothschild’s demise.

By 1999, I had saved a significant amount of money and began looking at investments outside of the stock market. I answered an ad placed by a man selling off his massive art collection. Paul DiBernardis was in his early 80s and lived in Petaluma. He owned many art galleries and was selling his inventory.

I purchased several inexpensive works and then told Paul that I was looking to invest in something that would appreciate substantially. He went upstairs and brought down a painting by Norman Rockwell.

He told me that Rockwell’s works were going on a national tour. If I held on to it for several years and did some homework, it would be worth substantially more than the 40,000 dollars he wanted for it. Paul acquired the painting from the Associated American Artists Gallery in Manhattan, who told him that they purchased from the Keppler family who owned it since the 1940s. The Keppler’s were famous illustrators, and the story made sense to me. So, I bought the painting. Paul wrote me a provenance and gave me the original label from the Associated American Artists Gallery when he had the picture reframed.

Several years passed, and now the Rockwell tour was over. I sent the painting to my father in Connecticut so he could take it to the Norman Rockwell Museum in nearby Massachusetts to get it authenticated.

After making the trip to Stockbridge, MA, he informed me that the Norman Rockwell Museum could not authenticate any Rockwell paintings. Still, they didn’t think it was authentic because the signature didn’t match the stencil-like name that appears on most of his works. It was a huge disappointment, but I liked the painting and hung it directly across from my desk at home, where I looked at it every day for ten years.

Then one morning in 2014, I looked up from my desk and thought I could see the initials NR in the latticework of the bridge, which is the focal point of the painting. I immediately began my research into Norman Rockwell’s life. I read about his painting style, his interest in photography, his early career as an Illustrator for Boy’s Life Magazine, his work for the Saturday Evening Post, his short time in the US Military during World War II, and his rise to fame after the war.

During the war, Mr. Rockwell created several posters for the US Government. I already knew that a regular monthly feature in Boy’s Life Magazine was to find the hidden pictures in a picture. I surmised that there must have been some connection between the two, so I started researching technological advances of the 1930s. I learned that Steganography, which is the art of hiding a message in plain sight, was being used by the Government. I also read about the adoption of standards for color models (RGB, CMYK, et al.) by the International Commission on Illumination. And about a patent filed in 1938 by Mr. Martin J. Weber, who was a contemporary of Mr. Rockwell. Weber’s invention, called “Posterization,” caused two-dimensional photographs to appear as three-dimensional images that sprung off the page.

Mr. Rockwell had an idea of how he could apply these concepts to painted artwork. He developed a process that combined these innovations for use as an anti-forgery technique. He was concerned that forgers would copy his works or created paintings falsely attributed to him. His application blended Steganography, Posterization, and the differences between the color models. Mr. Rockwell never disclosed this information to anybody.

My process identified several other artists who worked for the US Government during WWII and subsequently concealed their names or initials in paintings using Steganography. However, only Norman Rockwell went to such great lengths to prevent false attribution and forgery of his work.

Below is a simplified explanation of how his anti-forgery technique works.

Posterization only works on colors within the same color model. So, Mr. Rockwell employed RGB color model paints along with the CMYK color model paint palette he customarily used.

The human eye does not perceive the slight difference between the CMYK and RGB color model paints. The variation between the two would not appear in photographs because all cameras, TV screens, and computer monitors operate using the RGB color model. Because forgers work from pictures of a painting, they would never realize that this anti-forgery technique was in place.

The only way to see the hidden information is to take a picture of a painting and convert that photograph into the CYMK model.

Next, the hue and saturation levels need to be adjusted. Then, the image is converted again into another color model known as HSB/HSV.

The final step uses the HSB/HSV image and then Posterizes it to reveal the hidden information.

I tested my process on more than 100 paintings and determined that every work completed after 1942 contained this anti-forgery technique.

My research uncovered a situation where a forgery of Mr. Rockwell’s painting titled, “Breaking Home Ties” was on display for months in the Norman Rockwell Museum. I obtained images of both the authentic and the forgery, and my process unequivocally identified the genuine piece.

In 2019, I was granted a Provisional Patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office for the Authentication of Norman Rockwell Paintings.

The patented process confirmed that the painting I purchased from Paul DiBernardis in 1999 is an authentic Norman Rockwell painting!

Since his death in 1978, Mr. Rockwell’s paintings have skyrocketed in value. In 2013, “Saying Grace” sold at auction for a record 46MM dollars, the highest price paid for work by an American artist.

The sale of “My Studio in West Arlington, VT,” along with the sale or licensing of my patented authentication process, will bring this adventure to a close. You can read more and see numerous examples at www.rockwellauthentication.com.

Insurance companies, Museums, and Auction houses should consider purchasing this patent to mitigate the potentially devastating financial repercussions of a forgery. Insurers and Museums are at considerable risk every time Mr. Rockwell’s paintings are loaned or are part of a traveling exhibit. The authentication process takes less than five minutes. Every time a Rockwell goes out or comes in, it should be subject to authentication. Similarly, when an auction house accepts a Rockwell on consignment, they need to be confident that it is authentic at every stage of the custodial process.

Currently, I am winding down two other incredible adventures that started after I purchased the painting in 1999.

The first is my investigation into Sir Francis Drake’s visit to the land he named Nova Albion in 1579. My goal was to resolve the myths and unanswered questions surrounding the controversial artifact known as Drake’s “Plate of Brass,” and the actual location of Nova Albion. Once again, Steganography played an important role. In this situation, re-arranging the words Nova Albion on the Inset of the Hondius Broadside Map of 1595, revealed the exact geographic coordinates of Nova Albion. The artifacts collected during my fieldwork, prove that the Plate of Brass was a genuine artifact and not some prop used in a hoax as is widely believed. I suggest you read my book, Drake’s Treasure. It is available in Kindle and paperback formats through Amazon.

The second adventure drawing to a close is my research into the first inhabitants of California, the Paleo-Indians who lived in the area of the San Quentin Peninsula some 8,000–10,000 years ago. I discovered that they were an advanced culture with a written language and belief system. More importantly, this band of Paleo-Indians was the first group in North America to develop the technology required to work with glass and metal tools. No book is available at this time, but you can see and read about my findings at www.newtribalart.com.

The Vocational tests were right. I THRIVE on adventures!

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

When you are sure about something, pay no attention to the non-believers and naysayers. Regardless of what they say, do not let them dissuade you from continuing along the path to your goal.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

Patience, persistence, and the ability to think “outside of the box” by linking bits of information that may be considered insignificant or irrelevant by others.

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Persistence is omnipotent! If something doesn’t work right away, put it aside, think about alternative ways to make it work, and then try again. If necessary, repeat this process several times.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am grateful for the help of Patent Agent, Michael Priddy of Boulder, CO. Michael generally works with high technology patents. Michael used the information from my abandoned patent application to create a cohesive and appropriately formatted application. He worked directly with the Patent Examiner to have a first of its kind patent issued by the USPTO.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

I am working on a project that will shed new light on the cultural aspects of the first inhabitants of North America. Paleo-Indians were a primitive people who crossed over the land bridge from Asia perhaps as long as 40,000 years ago. Over time, they made their way southward until they settled in Marin County, California, and flourished. My investigation shows that they had a written language similar to hieroglyphics. This band of Paleo-Indians was technologically advanced and worked with glass and metal for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years earlier than was believed.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

I would like to see the Secretary of the Interior name the San Quentin Peninsula as Drake’s Landing site and remove that designation from Drake’s Bay.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

Our current system of electing Representatives, Congressmen, and Senators to cast votes on behalf of their constituents is outmoded. It comes from a time when men rode on horses, and there was no other way to convey the opinions of the public. Over the centuries, this has resulted in the corruption of many elected officials who serve corporate and private interests who donate vast sums of money to accomplish their goals. It is time to implement a new system where citizens vote directly on issues rather than elected officials casting votes to represent them. The technology is available to accomplish this change.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@The_Pack1- Twitter

Sir Francis Drake’s Plate of Brass — Facebook

New Tribal Art — Facebook

Rockwell Authentication -Facebook

Robert Stupack — LinkedIn

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