Thursday, October 13, 2016

Han van Meegeren

Henricus Antonius "Han" van Meegeren (1889 –1947) was a Dutch painter and portraitist and is considered to be one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century. 
 As a child, van Meegeren developed an enthusiasm for the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, and later set out to become an artist himself. Art critics, however, decried his work as tired and derivative, and van Meegeren felt that they had destroyed his career. Thereupon, he decided to prove his talent to the critics by forging paintings of some of the world's most famous artists, including Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch, and Johannes Vermeer. He so well replicated the styles and colours of the artists that the best art critics and experts of the time regarded his paintings as genuine and sometimes exquisite.
 
 During World War II, wealthy Dutchmen wanted to prevent a sellout of Dutch art to Hitler and the Nazi’s, they avidly bought van Meegeren's forgeries, thinking them the work of the masters. Nevertheless, a falsified "Vermeer" ended up in the possession of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. Following the war, the forgery was discovered in Göring's possession, and van Meegeren was arrested on 29 May 1945 as a collaborator, as officials believed that he had sold Dutch cultural property to the Nazis. This would have been an act of treason, the punishment for which was death, so van Meegeren confessed to the less serious charge of forgery instead.
 He was convicted on falsification and fraud charges on 12 November 1947, after a brief but highly publicized trial, and was sentenced to a modest punishment of one year in prison. He did not serve out his sentence, however; he died 30 December 1947, in the Valerius Clinic in Amsterdam, after two heart attacks.[4]
 
It is estimated that van Meegeren duped buyers, including the government of the Netherlands, out of the equivalent of more than thirty million dollars in today's money.

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