I WAS VERMEER
By Frank Wynne
BLOOMSBURY, pounds 14.99
Order for pounds 13.50 (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897
When writing my own book, Impostors, I excluded art forgers. I wasn't interested in fraud as a way of making money, but of remaking an identity: the true impostor primarily seeks not riches but success, recognition of his worth, which he has found impossible to achieve as "himself".
Reading Frank Wynne's account of Han van Meegeren, the celebrated forger of Vermeer and other Dutch masters, I realised I had dismissed this category too hastily. For Van Meegeren, making paintings that could pass as masterpieces had less to do with the vast sums for which they could be sold, than with taking his revenge on a world that had failed to recognise his talent.
The young Han van Meegeren's beautiful, original canvases could have been painted three centuries before, so unaffected was his work by the changes forced on art by the development of photography and the advent of surrealism. His most famous original was a sketch dashed off in under 10 minutes of a baby deer he brought to his studio. He took the charming, if sentimental, sketch to a printer, who refused to buy it until Van Meegeren …