How Dutch Artist Forged and Fooled
Byline: John M. Taylor, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Everyone enjoys a good art hoax, unless of course he is one of the victims. When targets include Nazi boss Hermann Goering, we have the makings of a good story. So it is that we are offered yet another book about Han Van Meegeren, perhaps the most inventive forger of the last century, whose fakes of old Dutch masters set the art world on its ear in the period before and during World War II. Art historian Jonathan Lopez has now raised the bar for any future books on the forger with The Man Who Made Vermeers.
Van Meegeren was born in the Dutch city of Deventer in 1889. He appears to have had a lonely childhood, but impressed teachers with his skill at drawing. He aspired to a career as a painter, and as a young man developed a considerable reputation as a portraitist. But Van Meegeren had an expensive life style - he married twice and supported several mistresses - one that could not be sustained by portraits alone. In 1923, he and a colleague turned to forgery, successfully selling works of Frans Hals and Pieter de Hooch. Seduced by the easy money and thrilling gamesmanship of his initial forays into forgery, Mr. Lopez writes, the young Van Meegeren . . . lost his sense of calling.
Van Meegeren decided to specialize in the works of the 17th-century master Jan Vermeer. After a period of relative neglect, Vermeer had been rediscovered and his works were in demand. At the same time, his total production had been small (there are only 35 unchallenged Vermeers today) and experts had had relatively few opportunities to compare his paintings. Moreover, the art world had long assumed that there were more Vermeers to be discovered - products of a religious period when Vermeer was believed to have focused on biblical subjects.
Van Meegeren's greatest challenge was to replicate the materials Vermeer had used. But old canvases were available, and the forger was skilled at developing his own pigments. His sales pitch was to employ intermediaries and to allow his buyer to discover a long-lost work of the master.
Van Meegeren sold his first Vermeer, Lady and Gentleman at the Spinet, in 1932. Five years later, while living in France, he produced The Supper at Emmaus, which some critics hailed as the finest Vermeer they had ever seen.
Despite a growing dependence on drugs and alcohol, Van Meegeren prospered throughout the 1930s and into the years of World War II, which proved a boon. According to Mr. Lopez, …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: How Dutch Artist Forged and Fooled. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Publication date: August 10, 2008. Page number: M30. © 2009 The Washington Times LLC. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.