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

ISBN: 1582345937

ISBN13: 9781582345932

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

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Book Overview

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...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A Fascinating Account

This is a very interesting and well-written account of the "great" (if that word can be applied to a crook!) art forger Han van Meegeren, who during and before WWII made himself about $100,000,000 (in today's money) by painting and selling fake paintings by Vermeer and other Dutch Masters. The story is well-known in art history circles, but author Frank Wynne has made it accessible and entertaining to the general reader, and has brought it up to date as of 2004, with the famous (or infamous) Sotheby's sale, for $30,000,000, of a questionable Vermeer. Even people who don't know a Vermeer from a Picasso are likely to be captivated by this story of high finance and low cunning. Hans van Meegeren was such an audacious rogue (artist, forger, con man, ladies' man, alcoholic) that he seems almost larger than life, especially in Wynne's witty and pointed retelling. The book's appendices include a useful bibliography, list of websites, and summary of the present locations and status of Vermeer paintings and forgeries.


This book gives a graphic represenation of the false values people place on the value of "art." A painting thought to be a Vermeer is highly valued until it is discovered that it is a forgery. Do we value the art or the created super-star aspect of the false values created by so called experts of taste. Is a painting more valuable because someone signs his or her name? In this case Goering acquires a Vermeer which is to be the superstar of his collection to rival Hitler and his collection. Most of these paintings are stolen from Jews and conquered museums, another book THE RAPE OF EUROPA also should be read. It is an adventure story of greed and corruption and the depravity of man under the guise of created tastes and the frality of man. It reemphasizes the importance of creating your own taste and value system while observing the actions of the trend setters of society. It also demonstrates the importance of ART to society..

The Art of the Forger

In 1938 in Rotterdam there was a museum exhibition of masterpieces headlined by _The Supper at Emmaus_, a recently discovered painting by Jan Vermeer who had died over two hundred years before. It was being hailed as the masterwork of the famous artist, and the exhibit was a sensation. One man returned to view the painting repeatedly, day after day, standing before it and insisting he was not one of the awestruck viewers reverentially taking it in: "I can't believe they paid half a million guilders for this," he would declare. "It's obviously a fake." The other viewers, if they replied, would attempt to contradict him, but he could not be swayed. He was right, though, and he knew he was right, because he himself had painted the picture. _I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Forger_ (Bloomsbury) by journalist Frank Wynne tells the astonishing story of Han van Meegeren, a complicated saga of art forgery that came to light merely because van Meegeren had to confess to the forgeries to avoid being convicted of collusion with the Nazis. Even then, some didn't believe his confession. Van Meegeren was an artist outside of his time. "Peering into Han's studio," Wynne writes, "it was as though a century of artistic revolution never happened." He could not make his realistic paintings pay. He was angry at the critics, and he was broke, and he determined he would do something about both. He would make a name for himself by painting pictures that would be praised as lost masterpieces of famous past artists, and eventually he would let the world know how he had fooled the so-called experts. Han determined that he would paint a Vermeer, and in order to be sure that his forgery was accepted, he set technical demands for himself. Van Meegeren practiced different techniques in experimentation before beginning his masterwork, _The Supper at Emmaus_, on which he worked for six months after years of planning and research. He had picked the subject of the painting with as much care as he had his materials, so that it fit into a void in Vermeer's career that critics were happy to see filled. He made up a story about the painting's provenance, and got a stooge to present it to one of the top critics of the day, who was flabbergasted to see such a magnificent Vermeer, and announced it as such to the world. Van Meegeren went on to sell a Vermeer to Hermann Göring, for more than a million guilders and the return of hundreds of genuine old Dutch masters which the Nazis had looted. After the war, van Meegeren was arrested not for forgery, but for treason in dealing with the enemy. He was six weeks in custody before he accepted that there was only one way to clear himself, by admitting that he had sold no Vermeer but that he himself was the painter of Göring's canvas, as well as many others. When authorities didn't believe him, he was given a chance to paint a new Vermeer while in custody, and there was agreement that he h

Loved it!

I am a huge Vermeer fan and already knew quite a bit about Van Meegeren before reading this. I agree with the reviewer who says that the author invents conversations or claims to know what Van Meegeren thought on a specific occasion, which is impossible -- but I think much of the book is based on fact, and it's a fabulous read. As far as I know, there are not many other places where Van M's works are reproduced in color, either - and I like it that the book includes appendices listing the whereabouts of all extant works by Vermeer and Van M.

Quite simply, brilliant...

The life of the scheming fraudster is by its very nature more interesting than that of the natural genius. Everyone loves an underdog, and Han van Meegeren was that most unusual of underdogs: a winner. Wynne's book, described last weekend by [English Newspaper] The Observer as 'gripping and psychologically fascinating', seeks to do more than simply recount this most interesting of stories. It gets inside van Meegeren's head, and in doing so sheds new light on one of the most intriguing characters the art world has ever seen. This is just a fascinating story, brilliantly told. Very highly recommended.
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