Dutch painter and famed forger Han van Meegeren was an interesting character. Though moderately successful as an original artist in his own right in the early 20th century, Van Meegeren apparently decided there was more money to be made in forging the Old Masters, especially since trends at the time favored modern art like expressionism, surrealism, and cubism (which the artist himself utterly loathed). Van Meegeren, spending years perfecting a complex alchemy of hand-ground pigments and modern chemical aging techniques, began producing copies of works by Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, and Gerard ter Borch, but by far his best known forgeries were of paintings by Johannes Vermeer, whose actual surviving works numbered less than forty. Van Meegeren made a fortune passing off his phony Vermeers, and ironically only got caught when one of his fakes ended up in the possession of Hermann Göring, and Van Meegeren was accused of selling Dutch property to the Nazis. But once he established that he’d painted the picture himself, he became a national hero for pulling the wool over the eyes of the Third Reich, although his political leanings aren’t as cut and dried as that statement might suggest. It’s a colorful journey through a world of fabulous fakes on an artistic episode 319.
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