I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Forger

I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Forger

by Frank Wynne

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The astonishing story of the Dutch con man whose modern "Vermeers" fooled the world.See more details below


The astonishing story of the Dutch con man whose modern "Vermeers" fooled the world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this intriguing if dry biography, Wynne recounts how Dutch forger Han van Meegeren successfully passed off more than a dozen bogus works-including, most famously, The Supper at Emmaus in 1937-as authentic Vermeers, Halses and de Hooches. Van Meegeren, who favored the style of the old Dutch masters just as modernism was hitting its stride, decided to embarrass his forward-looking critics by creating and selling his own "Vermeer." He continued his charade until he was forced to admit his crimes in 1947 while defending himself against a separate charge of treason. Wynne takes great care in explaining just how the increasingly paranoid and drug-addicted van Meegeren managed to fool the international art community, including a technical breakdown of how van Meegeren employed plastic to create the antique look of cracked craquelure in his canvases. Wynne also ruminates on how the arrogance of the art world-of critics like Abraham Bredius who were so confident in their ability to spot fakes that they brushed aside X-rays and other modern tests, as well as collectors desperate for authenticity-fuels the market for forgeries. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Some real-life stories are more fantastic than anything Hollywood can invent. That a mid-20th-century artist could create forgeries that fooled the entire art world is the extraordinary story of Dutch art forger Hans van Meegeren (1889-1947). Recognizing that very few Johannes Vermeer paintings were known in his time and that there were no known early Vermeers, Meergeren realized he could create works that could not be compared to any authenticated Vermeer. Those fakes fooled everyone art scholars, museum curators, and Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann G ring included. Meegeren's deception was only discovered when he confessed it in court to save himself. London-based journalist and literary translator Wynne uses his journalistic skills to present a remarkable story that is part mystery, part adventure, part biography, and part courtroom drama. His thorough research and accomplished writing style bring this unique event in art history to the general public. Highly recommended. (Illustrations not seen.) Eugene C. Burt, Seattle Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A spectacular story of vengeance and fraud told with verve and style by British journalist Wynne, translator to English of Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles, 2000, among others. The incredible story of how Dutch painter Han van Meegeren avenged himself on supercilious art critics by becoming an expert forger of Vermeer and fooling the Nazis conveys a valuable lesson in how we see, notes Wynne in this methodical, suspenseful tale. A largely self-taught artist with reactionary views out of sync with modernist fashion, van Meegeren, from the city of Deventer, obsessively taught himself the arcane knowledge of 17th-century painting (the use of pigments, ores and metals) while studying architecture in Delft. At first hailed as a promising young talent, he was passed over as a fogey, then left his first wife and scandalously married Joanna Oelermans, former wife of esteemed art critic Karel de Boer. Moving from art restoration to copying the masters, van Meegeren devoted himself to forgery, and decided to choose as his "victim" Vermeer, an artist long neglected with a paucity of output whose rediscovery was largely due to the writing of French critic Theophile Thore in the mid-19th century. Working out of a house he purchased with Joanna in Nice, van Meegeren stripped a second-rate period canvas, employed only materials Vermeer would have used, reproduced the craquelure to make it completely convincing, and in essence created a lost 17th-century religious masterpiece of his own genius: The Supper at Emmaus, after a Caravaggio he had seen. Next came the job of authentication, readily supplied by the respected aging critic Abraham Bredius, and soon the phonymasterpiece was bought for a fabulous sum and hung in The Hague's Boijmans Gallery. With the advent of war, and Hitler's determination to own a Vermeer of his own, van Meegeren's knockoffs soon made their way into Hermann Goring's collection. The forger's trajectory from wealthy charlatan to national hero makes for delicious reading. Wynne employs all the devices of an expert roman policier.
Wynne blends reportorial skill with a love of irony to tell van Meegeren's life story…Crime thriller or forgery primer, this intriguing read also proves another epigram: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Bloomsbury USA
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