CELEBRITY FRAME ACADEMY; He Went from Teacher to Forger - and Was Sent to Prison for the Biggest Art Fraud of the 20th Century. but Now John Myatt Is Putting His Skills to Legitimate Use Again - Using Celebrities as Models to Re-Create World-Famous Masterpieces

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 30, 2011 | Go to article overview

CELEBRITY FRAME ACADEMY; He Went from Teacher to Forger - and Was Sent to Prison for the Biggest Art Fraud of the 20th Century. but Now John Myatt Is Putting His Skills to Legitimate Use Again - Using Celebrities as Models to Re-Create World-Famous Masterpieces


Byline: Report VICTORIA WOODHALL

John Myatt's colourful life as a 'convicted art forger made good' has Hollywood movie written all over it. And the story of how, as an art teacher in Staffordshire, he was left to raise two children under the age of three when his wife left, and how he gave in to the lure of big money for faking the work of major artists, is in development by a major film studio. He's not allowed to say which A-lister is in the frame to play him, but the brush strokes will be all his own. 'I have been contracted to produce all the paintings for the film,' says John, 65, and the subject of a six-part TV series in which he re-creates famous masterpieces using celebrities as sitters.

His career as 'faker' began in 1983 when he placed an ad in Private Eye offering 'genuine fakes' for [pounds sterling]150 (these were not replicas but works that Chagall, Monet or Picasso et al might have painted 'if they had had time', as Myatt puts it). In 1986 a customer, John Drewe, rang him to say that one of his works (in the style of Cubist painter Albert Gleizes) had been valued by Sotheby's at [pounds sterling]25,000, and asked if he wanted half the money. The offer was too good to resist and the pair went on to pass off 200 more fakes over seven years. Both were convicted of fraud and received jail sentences.

These days his legitimate fakes may be signed 'Monet', but are clearly marked 'John Myatt: Genuine Fake' on the back. Oligarchs, celebrities and art lovers now queue up for his work, which fetches up to [pounds sterling]30,000.

Fame in the Frame begins on Sky Arts on 8 February at 8pm

MYLEENE KLASS AS GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING BY JOHANNES VERMEER

'Myleene had to sit very still because we used a camera obscura -- a device that Vermeer used to project an image through a hole in a wall on to canvas, which gives his paintings that photographic quality,' says John.

'Myleene comes across as much more knowing, much sexier than the innocent young girl in Vermeer's picture. There's speculation that the girl was a servant, but Vermeer used ultramarine blue -- a colour that was four times the price of gold -- so he clearly thought that it was an important painting. …

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CELEBRITY FRAME ACADEMY; He Went from Teacher to Forger - and Was Sent to Prison for the Biggest Art Fraud of the 20th Century. but Now John Myatt Is Putting His Skills to Legitimate Use Again - Using Celebrities as Models to Re-Create World-Famous Masterpieces
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