I Was Vermeer by Frank Wynne

I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Forger by Frank Wynne (Bloomsbury)… For centuries, more than a few gifted artists have opted for forgery. As a result, many phony masterpieces adorn the world’s art galleries and private collections. Wynne’s book is about this offshoot school of art, and more particularly about the life and crimes of Han van Meegeren, a Dutch artist who, in addition to possessing prodigious abilities as a painter in oils, was familiar with the techniques employed and materials used by the Dutch Masters of yesteryear. Van Meegeren’s career began in the late 1800s, at a time when the fledgling art of photography was rendering realism passe, Dada was rippling through Europe’s arty intelligensia, and Picasso’s creative toe was daintily dipping into the vast sea of artistic abstraction. It was a tough time to be a Dutch neo-realist, so instead van Meegeren bacame a forger, focusing mainly on the relatively little-known (at the time) Jan Vermeer. He was wildly successful, selling scads of fake Vermeers and other duplicitous works, and becoming a decadent, morphine-addicted millionaire before finally fessing up to his astonishing art hoaxes in order to defend himself against the post-WWII accusation that he had collaboratorily sold a genuine Vermeer to Nazi Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring! After a celebrity trial, van Meegeren died on the eve of his upcoming year-long slap-on-the-wrist incarceration in a Dutch prison! An unusual and thought-provoking true-crime work, with remarkable illustrations.