Five Notorious Art Forgers at Ringling Museum
Date: May 23 – Aug. 3
Place: John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Intent to Deceive
The exhibition “Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World” examines the careers of five of the most notorious art forgers from the 20th century until the present.
Pieces produced by the five talented con artists will be on display in the galleries of The Ringling. The forgers created imitations of works by artists including Charles Courtney Curran, Honoré Daumier, Philip de László, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso.
There are 60 works of art in the show including some of the original pieces that the forgers copied. The exhibition also features some of the tools the forgers used to create their imitations.
The forgers in this exhibition imitated the works of many notable American and European artists such as Charles Courtney Curran, Honoré Daumier, Philip de László, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Paul Signac and Maurice de Vlaminck, among others, whose original works of art are featured in the exhibition as comparisons.
By bringing to light these forgers’ frustrated artistic ambitions, chaotic personal lives, and contempt for the art world, as well as understanding how advances in technology are aiding art professionals in identifying authenticity, this exhibition brings to light the serious implications of these con artists’ intent to deceive.
Hans van Meegeren (1889-1947) “Forging Dutch Masters”
Frustrated by his own art career, Hans van Meegeren sought fortune and recognition through forgery. He became one of the first media celebrity forgers of the 20thcentury. He began producing forgeries in the 1920s, but it was not until the mid-1930s that he had mastered his craft. Van Meegeren developed a technique to mimic centuries old dry paint by mixing Bakelite plastic into his paints and then baking the work. This allowed his forgeries to pass the forensics test of the era and produced the craquelure pattern consistent with older works.
Van Meegeren created an “early religious period” for Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer. In 1937, Dutch art expert Abraham Bredius declared that Van Meegeren’s “The Supper at Emmaus” was an authentic Vermeer. Van Meegeren later sold a forged painting “Christ with the Adulteress” to Nazi leader Hermann Goring.
Elmyr De Hory (1906-1976) “A Master of Deception”
Elmyr de Hory was a living forgery. Upon moving the United States after World War II, he created a persona of a disposed Hungarian aristocrat selling his art collection. In reality, he was a struggling artist born to middle class parents in Budapest, Hungary.
After his own art career failed to provide his desired life style, De Hory turned to forgery. He sold more than 1000 forgeries into the art market during his 30-year career. De Hory would produce his works on 19th century canvases that he purchased at flea markets and artificially age the works with commercial varnishes.
Eric Hebborn (1934-1996)“From Restorer to Forger”
Eric Hebborn used his talent as a draftsman and expertise of historic paper to forge art that tricked prominent art experts. His use of period paper and period application methods made his work nearly impossible to detect through forensic analysis.
Hebborn focused on the Renaissance and Baroque periods for his forgeries. He started with the drawings of Nicholas Poussin after being told his work resembled Poussin’s by art historian Sir Anthony Blunt.
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Arts, Britain’s most prestigious art school, Hebborn’s drawing skills were not in demand by the mid-20th century art market. He turned to forging as an act of revenge against art expert and dealers. Hebborn never sold to amateur collectors.
John Myatt (1945-) “The Art of Genuine Fakes”
John Myatt needed a way to support his two children. He placed an ad in a local newspaper offering “Genuine Fakes for $510-$680.” Con artist John Drewe sold one of the fakes through Christie’s Auctions for $102,000, and a partnership formed.
Myatt forged works by more than 200 modernist painters, and Drewe created the false documents and sold the works. The partnership lasted for seven years, until dealers become suspicious of Drewe’s seemingly endless supply of works. Myatt was arrested in 1995, and in return for his cooperation in the case against Drewe, Myatt received a reduced sentence.
Mark Landis (1955-) “Mysterious Donor”
Mark Landis does not fit in with the other forgers because he was not motivated by monetary gain or a desire for revenge.
For the past 30 years, Landis posed as a philanthropist seeking to donate famous works as a way to honor his deceased parents. To avoid detection, Landis has falsified documents, created aliases and even has posed as a priest. Unlike the other forgers, Landis used plain materials purchased from his local art store and attempted to make them look aged though staining them with tea or pigment.
To learn more about these forgers and their work, visit: Intent to Deceive
Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World is organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C. Curated by Colette Loll.
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