For two years, he bought their paintings.

Andrew Hall, a prominent oil trader and the manager of a Connecticut-based hedge fund, is an avid collector of works by acclaimed American painter Leon Golub.

Lorettann Gascard, formerly an associate professor of art history and fine arts at Franklin Pierce University, and her son, Nikolas Gascard, seemed to have an extensive collection of pieces by the artist.

Between 2009 and 2011, Hall said he bought 24 paintings that came from the Gascards’ collection, according to court documents attorneys filed for Hall Sept. 16 in U.S. District Court in Concord.

All of them, Hall alleges, were fakes.

The Gascards told him they’d acquired most, if not all of these paintings from the artist himself, or through family inheritance, the documents allege.

But today, Hall doesn’t believe them. He’s seeking $676,250 from the Gascards in a lawsuit over the paintings, which his lawyers call “clever forgeries.”

Lorettann and Nikolas Gascard deny Hall’s claims.

“We intend to address these false allegations vigorously,” they wrote in an email to The Sentinel. They declined further comment.

The court documents say that up until recently, Lorettann Gascard was an associate professor at Franklin Pierce in Rindge and served as director of the university’s Thoreau Art Gallery. A university spokeswoman declined to comment on when Lorettann Gascard was last employed by the university.

Suspicion aroused

Hall’s lawyers say their client didn’t question the authenticity of the paintings he bought from the mother and son until years later, according to the court filings.

In November 2014, the Hall Art Foundation, which displays some of the work in Hall’s collection and owns an exhibition space in Reading, Vt., started to plan for a showing of more than 60 Golub pieces, court documents show.

In early 2015, Golub’s longtime studio assistant, Samm Kunce, was asked to identify the works — including the many acquired from the Gascards’ collection — slated to be shown in the upcoming exhibition.

But Kunce wasn’t able to find records of the Golubs that Hall bought from the Gascards and noted “unusual formal characteristics” in the paintings when she examined them in person, according to court documents.

In March, Stephen Golub, who works with Kunce at an organization devoted to his father’s art, told the Hall foundation the works were “likely forgeries” the documents said.

Hall is the former CEO of Phibro, a commodities trading firm formerly owned by Citigroup Inc. He came under national criticism when he was due to receive a $100 million bonus in 2009, during the Great Recession and just after Citigroup Inc. had received a $45 billion bailout from the U.S. government, according to Bloomberg.

Art appreciation

Hall, who is also a well-known art collector, started to acquire Golub’s work in 2003, believing it was “undervalued” and that eventually “history would recognize him as an important artist,” documents in the lawsuit said.

By 2009, Hall owned approximately 40 Golub paintings and drawings.

As an artist, Golub’s known for addressing issues including power, war and race. His works are often dark and depict violence or emotional anguish.

Ronald Feldman, co-founder of the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York City, said he knew Golub personally before the artist’s death in 2004. His gallery displayed Golub’s paintings and would sell some of them on the artist’s behalf.

Golub’s artwork captured the historical events of his time, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he said. The artist also painted portraits of dictators, such as Fidel Castro and Francisco Franco and other leaders Feldman called “the killers of the world.”

Feldman said he saw Hall’s collection of Golubs before Hall started buying paintings from the Gascards; many of the works Hall owned were the artist’s signature depictions of world leaders, Feldman said.

“These are not easy works to want to like. No one wants to hang them in their home,” he said.

But he stressed that they’re an important part of Golub’s body of work and represent the artist’s dedication to chronicling and forcing viewers to confront history.

“(Hall) is one of the few, if not the only one, who understood the depth of what Leon was doing,” Feldman said.

Although Feldman didn’t know whether the paintings Hall bought from the Gascards were portraits of world leaders, he said it wouldn’t be impossible to forge Golub’s paintings in this style.

While Golub’s other works are large, more detailed and feature multiple subjects, his portraits of leaders are smaller and simpler, Feldman said.

Amassing a collection

In 2009, Hall acquired his first painting from the Gascards’ collection, according to court documents.

On Sept. 23 of that year, he bought a painting attributed to Golub called “Untitled” from Christie’s, an auction house in New York City, according to the filing.

Between March 2010 and March 2011, Hall bought five more paintings attributed to Golub from Christie’s and one from Sotheby’s, another auction house, the lawsuit alleges.

The paintings were consigned to the auction houses by the Gascards, according to the court filings.

Hall first made direct contact with Nikolas Gascard after buying another reported Golub painting from him on the online auction house Arnet.com in January of 2011, the lawsuit details.

Nikolas Gascard told Hall he had a collection of Golubs he wished to sell, and Hall bought 10 paintings from him, court documents say.

Two months later, in a deal brokered by Nikolas Gascard, Lorettann Gascard sold Hall six additional paintings, according to the lawsuit.

As they were planning for their upcoming exhibition of Golub works more than three years later, the Hall Art Foundation contacted Lorettann Gascard to ask about the origin of the paintings that had come from the family’s collection, the filing said.

According to the lawsuit, Lorettann Gascard said the paintings were gifts or purchases from Leon Golub to her and or her late husband, Johannes Gascard.

She also said the family received some of the paintings after Johannes’ sister, Mikaela Gascard died in Germany, the court documents said.

Lorettann Gascard also allegedly told the foundation she met Golub at Farleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., where he taught classes, between 1968 and 1970, and that the two remained close friends until his death in 2004.

Asked to prove the works she sold Hall were Golubs, Lorettann Gascard produced two letters, which made no reference to the paintings: in one, Golub thanks her for sending him an article; in another, Golub’s wife, Nancy Spero, thanks her for giving her earphones as a gift, according to court documents.

After going to the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. to look through Golub’s personal records, The Director of the Hall Art Foundation, Maryse Brand, wasn’t able to find any mention of the works the Gascards sold to Hall and found “scant, if any” mention of Lorettann Gascard according to the filing.

A lawsuit with Franklin Pierce

Court documents indicate the Gascards have yet to respond to Hall’s lawsuit.

But they also show Lorettann Gascard was involved in another lawsuit in recent years — one she filed against Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Information about the lawsuit on Pacer, an electronic service that allows users to access court records, is limited. But it shows Gascard sued the university alleging administrators discriminated against her based on her age, sex, disability and retaliation.

In 2011, Lorettann Gascard took a 2½ month disability leave due to “situational stress” but returned to her post in early 2012, according to court documents.

After returning, she applied to be director of the university’s fine arts department, a job for which she said she was “completely qualified,” according to documents.

But the position was awarded to a man who had worked at Franklin Pierce since 2010; Gascard had been employed at the university since 1998, according to court documents.

Court documents also allege she faced bullying from university administrators during departmental meetings, that the university did not adequately accommodate symptoms of her situational stress and released her medical information without her consent to at least one of her colleagues.

Information concerning how the lawsuit was resolved was not available on Pacer. In an email, Lorettann Gascard said the lawsuit against the university was settled, but she could not comment further.

The university declined to provide information about the lawsuit.

“The university does not have comment regarding Ms. Gascard,” spokeswoman Brianna Graves said.

Xander Landen can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420 or at xlanden@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @XLandenKS.