After a year of doing composite drawings for the Forestville Police Department, Sketch Artist Pierre Chantel was asked to resign Thursday.
Chantel was known for sketching suspects from witness descriptions in the style of early 20th-Century Cubism. His disdain for the Realist movement of contemporary forensic and police sketch artists made him a persistent target of criticism. In one case, detectives complained that his sketch of the head of a car theft ring made them spend weeks looking for a man with three fingers and one-and-a-half eyes.
The FPD was further put off by Chantel’s need to sign and hand number his work. His habit of framing each sketch also made them difficult for police to carry about.
However, the art world was impressed. His “Sketch of the Dale’s Package Store Shoplifter” may not have netted an arrest but it did get $500 at Sotheby’s, as well as solicitations by other suspects for drawings of themselves.
Chantel was lauded by Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times and lecturer on contemporary art and to the unruly kids in her neighborhood. She lamented the “short-sightedness” of the FPD in firing someone who “so well captures the beauty of those society callously labels ‘criminals.'” She asked, “Since when did police departments become all about enforcing the law?”
Rockwell Park constable Pat O’Reilly rocked on his heels and said, “The constabulary never took a fancy to his work. His doodles only made sense after a night on the lash sharing a few pints with the lads from Terryville. Them was the days… But Chantel did help us in finding a cello that was cut in fourths and glued back together at odd angles.”
Chantel will be replaced by Crissy Foster. An FPD spokesman beamed about the new police sketch artist. “She’s still in kindergarten, but her drawings have received high marks from her teacher and even a gold star. And thanks to work she just did for us, we are hot in pursuit of a thief with a purple balloon for a head, eyes that are dots, and stick arms and legs.”
Mr. Chantel was not available for comment, commenting, “I, Pierre Chantel, do not talk to mere reporters.”