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

Frank Wynne s remarkable book tells the story of Han van Meegeren, a paranoid, drug addicted, second rate painter whose Vermeer forgeries made him a secret superstar of the art world and along the way, it reveals the collusion and ego that, even today, allow art forgery to thrive During van Meegeren s heyday as a forger of Vermeers, he earned 50 million dollars, the acclaFrank Wynne s remarkable book tells the story of Han van Meegeren, a paranoid, drug addicted, second rate painter whose Vermeer forgeries made him a secret superstar of the art world and along the way, it reveals the collusion and ego that, even today, allow art forgery to thrive During van Meegeren s heyday as a forger of Vermeers, he earned 50 million dollars, the acclamation of the world s press, and the satisfaction of swindling the Nazis His canvases were so nearly authentic that they would almost certainly be prized among the catalogue of Vermeers if he had not confessed And, no doubt, he never would have confessed at all if he hadn t been trapped in a catch 22 he had thrived so noticably during the war that when it ended, he was quickly arrested as a Nazi collaborator His only defense was to admit that he himself had painted the remarkable Vermeers that had passed through his hands a confession the public refused to believe, until, in a huge media event, the courts staged the public painting of what would be van Meegeren s last Vermeer I Was Vermeer is an utterly gripping real life mystery, capturing both the life of the consummate art forger, phenomenally skilled and yet necessarily unrecognized, and the equally fascinating work of the experts who identify forgeries and track down their perpetrators Wry, amoral, irreverent, and plotted like a thriller, it is the first major book in forty years on this astonishing episode in history.
I Was Vermeer The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century s Greatest Forger Frank Wynne s remarkable book tells the story of Han van Meegeren a paranoid drug addicted second rate painter whose Vermeer forgeries made him a secret superstar of the art world and along the way

  • Title: I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Forger
  • Author: Frank Wynne
  • ISBN: 9781582345932
  • Page: 270
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 1 thought on “I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Forger”

    1. I. Love. Art. Forgery.I love it! I may obsess over it for a while!Actually, I'm probably going to try to get ahold of a copy of Drawn to Trouble by Eric Hebborn, which is an autobiographical account of his art forgering exploits. I also have to get ahold of a dvd of Incognito which was what lit the spark of attraction between me & art forgery to begin with, waaaay back, sometime in the 90's.Anyway! Enough of the geek-out. I liked this book a lot. It was delicious & I ate it up.

    2. I made the happy mistake of following someone's link to BookCloseOuts on Black Friday in November and this was among the assortment of nine vaguely-intriguing books I picked up for $20. Having literally judged this book by its cover in deciding whether to buy it, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was an examination of the life and work (legitimate and not-so-legitimate) of Han van Meegeren, the Dutch artist best known for having successfully forged and sold at least eight paintings attrib [...]

    3. This is a super fun book. I loved all the technical details about how to convincingly fake a 17th century painting. It has a lot of cynical philosophy about how and why some works are called "great art", the random power of art critics, and how forgeries are detected, all of which I really enjoyed. Han Van Meegeren is a fascinating, not completely likable person, but the story moves along quickly and the period details are never dull.

    4. On a certain level, it is almost impossible not to admire the artistic ability, technical skill, scientific research, and sheer audacity of this man. What began as a scheme to embarrass critics and dealers who scorned his work grew into much, much more: a fraud of monumental proportions, the echoes of which linger to this day. He was not a nice man, but he was a complex and gifted criminal whose exploits are fascinating to read about. Bravo to Frank Wynne for shining a light on Han van Meegeren! [...]

    5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I don’t know how much of the truth was ever revealed by the man who fooled experts and collectors for decades, but it was a lively, engaging story. Han van Meegeren may have been placed into that perfect span of years when a person with certain skills and knowledge could effectively create paintings that the world accepted as 17th Century Dutch.What follows is a synopsis of some of this book. I suppose that it could be considered a “spoiler”, but in [...]

    6. This enjoyable tale chronicles the life and times of Han van Meegeren, a Dutch art forger who taught himself to create authentic old style oil paints using "ingredients" they used in Vermeer's time. He also created his own ovens to help bake the paintings to produce the craquelure (cracked texture) of old paintings. He was so good that certain of his paintings are still believed to be genuine despite his protestations, and other acknowledged Vermeers are under suspicion despite his denials. He w [...]

    7. I really oscillated between annoyance with this guy (he could be SUCH a pretentious, arrogant, selfish jackass!) and actually kind of admiring him. I think it's kind of funny that he was able to so successfully pull one over on all these art critics. Personally, I think that if he was THAT skilled, not just artistically, but technically as well, that his works are actually more impressive than the originals. I'm not saying Vermeer wasn't talented (I am quite fond of Girl with a Pearl Earring), b [...]

    8. Van Meegeren didn't just forge Vermeers, he forged Vermeers really badly. Apparently very much on purpose. Look at the forgeries and decide for yourself. It looks like he intentionally set out to put egg on the faces of Europe's art world. The title could just as accurately have been, "I Hacked Europe's Art World and Lived Very High on the Hog While Getting Away With It". Anthropology at its finest. After you have read this book, you will be in a much better position to judge whether all those p [...]

    9. Another account of the forger who used Nazi greed and some clever home chemistry (making what was essentially melamine in an oven) to collect money from Goering's agents bent on hoarding good, Aryan art. What always amazes me about this case is how gullible the Nazis were to some Precious-Moments looking Jesus paintings and a con-man's salesmanship.

    10. A fascinating story -- easy to read about a forger who created "seventeenth century" Vermeers. Interesting science about how he tried to do it getting original seventeenth century canvasses and in the chaos of the war period critics believed they were genuine. A good book for anyone interested in art/art history/art process.

    11. "I was Vermeer" is a fascinating little book and you'll never be able to go to an art museum again and not wonder if what you are looking at is "real" or not. The book has two themes running through it. The first revolves around the autobiography of Han van Meegeren, a talented artist whose affair with an art critic's wife ruins his career. Ultimately, Van Meegeren turns to revenge against the art world that has spurned him. His forgeries of Vermeer are so convincing, they are hung in major muse [...]

    12. Art history is a matter of provenance; art collecting an affair of prestige. Commerce in art is the ineluctable confluence of provenance and prestige. Han van Meegeren (1889–1947), a talented painter who despised the work of modernists such as Picasso, understood that he could only succeed as an artist by obliterating himself and becoming his 17th-century avatar, Vermeer.To Han, as Frank Wynne calls him throughout this lively biography, "I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Centur [...]

    13. A very little interesting little biography delving into the mind of a famous art forger. Overall an accomplished little book and I enjoyed reading it.

    14. A fascinating story. Found it slow at the start, primarily due to the Dutch words and names with which I was unfamiliar, but once it founds its rhythm it was a very good read.

    15. read and I learned a lot about the life of one of the greatest art forgers that has ever lived. Frank Wynne did a fantastic job of capturing the history and life of Han. He also dove deep into his motivations and technique. This was a fantastic work that I really enjoyed reading. My only complaint is that I would have like to have a bit more background on Vermeer.

    16. In 1945, in the waning days of the second World War, a cache of paintings was discovered in an abandoned salt mine in Austria. They were artworks that the occupying German forces plundered for the personal collection of the Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. One of them was a signed painting by Vermeer, a priceless work by one of the greatest Dutch painters of all time. The sale of this national treasure to the Nazis was traced to an obscure painter and art dealer named Han Van Meegeren, who was a [...]

    17. "I was Vermeer" tells a fascinating story entertainingly, albeit with a small but detectable admixture of sloppy writing.The story is that of a Dutch painter who became an enormously successful forger. He made millions (whatever currency you're counting in). The climax of the book (if climax isn't too purple a word) sees our anti-hero facing comeuppance. Frank Wynne focuses rather too much for my taste on giving us a flavour of the techniques Van Meegeren, the quasi-eponymous forger, used to pas [...]

    18. Han van Meegeren's success was in seeing what people desire and being able to satisfy them.Knowing that the world was hungry for a religious Vermeer that could fill the gap in the master's works, van Meegeren gave them exactly what they wanted. The book tells me all the troubles he went through to create Emmaus, which required mixed knowledge in science and history, drawing techniques, and of course loads of patience. I do not believe any followers could do such a good job as his. He was also cl [...]

    19. Frank Wynne’s remarkable book tells the story of Han van Meegeren, a paranoid, drug-addicted, second-rate painter whose Vermeer forgeries made him a secret superstar of the art world—and along the way, it reveals the collusion and ego that, even today, allow art forgery to thrive. During van Meegeren’s heyday as a forger of Vermeers, he earned 50 million dollars, the acclamation of the world’s press, and the satisfaction of swindling the Nazis. His canvases were so nearly authentic that [...]

    20. I never thought I would come to learn that artistic forgery can involve respect towards the original artist. The title of the book is a mere gimmick -- the core of the book is concerned with the art and beauty that engulfed forger Han Van Meegeren's life as an admirer of Vermeer. Anyone can paint a painting, but the real challenge rests in completely imitating the style of another artist, and Van Meegeren was most certainly a man capable of doing so. Pushing aside the ethics of forgery, this boo [...]

    21. This true story of Han van Meegeren, a Dutch forger creating and selling "genuine" Vermeers in the 1930s and 40s makes a great book jacket summary. That's what drew me in. The writing is good and there are glossy illustrations so readers can see Vermeers and van Meegerens side by side. The book jacket summary sketches out the arc of the story, but for me, the actual text didn't really match up. The agonizing decision to admit to forgery seemed to come pretty easily and things wrapped up pretty q [...]

    22. This was a fascinating account of how to forge 17th century art. This forger was meticulous in his operation and managed to bring several "lost" Vermeers to light. And by "several" paintings, I mean enough to make him millions of dollars. Of course he could never deposit the money in the bank and so part of what I enjoyed was reading about where he ended up stashing his money - in real estate and in land - not only the assets, but literally IN the houses and ON the property (as in buried in the [...]

    23. I didn't think it would hold my interest but it did. I found the technical aspects fascinating, how he was able to achieve the pigments that were the same as Vermeer used. The challenge of ageing the canvas so it defied the swabbing test it would be subjected to. Han spent a lot of research developing the niche his Vermeers would fill as well as finding appropriate old canvases to use to work on. What I find surprising is to me I agree with Han's son, his religious paintings have elongated heads [...]

    24. Great book - usually I don't go for non-fiction in specialized subject matter, but this was a great read. Wynne has really done his research, and he includes many factoids on forgery along with the major narrative of Van Meergeren's life. His writing is fast-paced but never sacrifices detail. It's interesting to consider how subjective art really is, and how hypocritical the art world can be - I went to the Natl Gallery to look at the 5 Vermeers displayed there, and I couldn't stop thinking abou [...]

    25. Wynne's fast-moving account of Han van Meegeren, the Dutch forger who made a fortune forging Vermeer paintings, is paced like a thriller and steeped in art world lore. Despite the book's briskness, Wynne manages to address a good many questions about the nature of art itself, the 'reality' of its authorship, and the emotional ways in which its owners and admirers become attached. The book could've done with a few plates of the works in question, but that omission doesn't detract from a fun, inte [...]

    26. An easy to read book about the life of a painter who was rebuffed by his peers and turned to forgery. I found it a great insight into the world of art and painting although there was a lot less about the Second World War than I had hoped -given the tag line of my version of the book was 'the forger who swindled the Nazis'. Overall an interesting read about an interesting character. I did find the last chapter about the trial to be somewhat difficult to digest with lots of names of witnesses etc. [...]

    27. Incredible story that also offers obscure insights into the art market. E.g a fake is a copy, a forgery is intentionally misattribution; forgeries are prevalent in the art market; experts and brokers are victim to the insidious incentive to misrepresent the prevalence of forgeries to preserve reputation and for financial gain; certain forensic technicals are susceptible to false positives (hypothesis is genuine). But for convolution of chronology, I would have given the book 4 stars.

    28. Despite the rather phony title, it's a remarkably good book. (Perhaps the distance in time helps, though it's not that significant.) Han van Meegeren's person, emerging from the narrative, would be best described as "well-rounded", were the book a work of fiction. Wynne portrays Han as part resentful artist, part childlish visionary, part delusional liar and a man ruled by his urges, but most importantly - a skillful observer. I didn't expect to find this character sympathetic. And yet.

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