The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren by Jonathan Lopez Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren

It’s a story that made Dutch painter Han van Meegeren famous worldwide when it broke at the end of World War II: a lifetime of disappointment drove him to forge Vermeers, one of which he sold to Hermann Goering, making a mockery of the Nazis. And it’s a story that’s been believed ever since. Too bad it just isn’t true.

Jonathan Lopez has done what no other writer could–tra

Jonathan Lopez has done what no other writer could–tracking down primary sources in four countries and five languages to tell for the first time the real story of the world’s most famous forger. Neither unappreciated artist nor antifascist hero, Van Meegeren emerges in The Man Who Made Vermeers as an ingenious, dyed-in-the-wool crook–a talented Mr. Ripley armed with a paintbrush, who worked virtually his entire adult life making and selling fake Old Masters. Drawing upon extensive interviews with descendents of Van Meegeren’s partners in crime, Lopez also explores the networks of illicit commerce that operated across Europe between the wars. Not only was Van Meegeren a key player in that high-stakes game during the 1920s, landing fakes with powerful dealers and famous collectors such as Andrew Mellon (including two pseudo-Vermeers that Mellon donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), but the forger and his associates later offered a case study in wartime opportunism as they cashed in on the Nazi occupation.

The Man Who Made Vermeers is a long-overdue unvarnishing of Van Meegeren’s legend and a deliciously detailed story of deceit in the art world.
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    Richard

    This book is not one I might normally have read, had it not been brought to my attention by a series of strange coincidences that would make even Lemony Snicket’s jaw drop. But this is a happy story, not a tragic one, so please bear with me.

    I came across the names of Joop Piller and Han van Meegeren quite by chance, and later realized there was a book which discussed their case. It looked interesting enough, but as I have so many unread books on my shelves, I thought I’d never read it.

    I joined

    I came across the names of Joop Piller and Han van Meegeren quite by chance, and later realized there was a book which discussed their case. It looked interesting enough, but as I have so many unread books on my shelves, I thought I’d never read it.

    I joined GoodReads on a whim, and by chance saw a review of one of my favourite novels, Madame Bovary. I know something about this book, having studied it in excruciating detail. So I commented on the review, and generated a flattering flurry of positive responses. But fate had yet another surprise in store: the next day, I was quite astounded to find that I had attracted the notice of none other than Jonathan Lopez, esteemed art historian and author of the award-winning story of The Man Who Made Vermeers. A friendship was soon forged between us, which made me think ever more seriously of reading his book. And the rest is history. Art history, to be exact.

    And now, for the review. (You were starting to wonder if I would ever get to it, weren’t you? Come on now, be honest!)

    There are a few things that I would have liked to have different in this volume. I would have loved some colour plates, as I do enjoy paintings of the Dutch Golden Age; moreover, it would have been interesting to see the difference in colour between a Vermeer original and a forgery. That being said, there is a veritable plethora of illustrations in black and white. Many of these are reproductions of old photos, the quality of which is not greatly affected by the lack of colour.

    I would also have liked to see the mechanics of documentation handled slightly differently. I was not aware until I was quite deep into the body of the text that there were a large number of endnotes providing many technical details as to the sources of information. I wondered why there were no superscript numbers (or even asterisks) in the text to alert the astute reader to the existence of said endnotes. However, although one must hunt a bit to find it, the documentation provided is voluminous and painstakingly thorough. The research undertaken during the preparation of this book must have been phenomenal–and in fact, aside from the evidence of the endnotes themselves, Lopez gives us tantalizing glimpses of this in his acknowledgments.

    There is much to praise in this book. First of all, it tells a very complex story with multiple tangled threads. Van Meegeren, the man at the crux of it all, was the ultimate con-artist, who, even when he got caught, was able to cover up much of what he’d done, and manipulate even his captor into protecting him. For many he was a famous, likeable and even heroic cad, because he’d managed to hoodwink the great Goering himself into buying one of his spurious Vermeers. But despite his great charisma, Van Meegeren kept a lot of his true feelings to himself. Lopez does an admirable job of tracing how the master forger embarked on his career, how he operated, who he duped, how he covered his tracks, how ideological, political, and even religious feelings influenced his forgeries, and what his genuine motivations were.

    The book contains many technical details about art and the art world that, in other hands, could have made for a deadly dull experience. The reader learns about canvases, age-crackle, pigments, chemicals, Bakelite, various testing techniques, authentication certificates and more. So–not being a professional artist or art critic myself–why did I not drop the book in disgust and look for a fantasy novel instead?

    Well, Lopez has a way of demonstrating his mastery of the subject without clubbing the reader over the head with it. His style is elegant and polished, his story-telling is superb, his sense of humour flashes out often, and his psychological and historical insights are profound.
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    Jose

    Jun 20, 2017

    rated it
    really liked it

    Successful art forgery stories have always been an interest of mine and for that reason this book, being about the best Vermeer forger to the date, was a sweet read.
    The author walks us through the process that drove Han Van Meegeren into becoming one of the most renowned and successful art forgers of the world, taking us from the shitty quality-less paintings to the pieces starring in millionaire art auctions.
    The book unfolds in a really grasping mode, allowing the reader to get involved in th


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    Mike

    Jul 28, 2012

    rated it
    really liked it

    Recommends it for:
    Anyone

    This is the second book that I have read in the past couple of months about the Dutch forger Han van Meegeren. The first (“I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Forger”) was a very sympathetic portrait of the man who made (in today’s dollars) millions creating fake works of art. While his own above-board career as a portrait painter and artist stalled.

    This book is a much more critical look at the man and his life, but goes into far less detail about how he (suppos

    This book is a much more critical look at the man and his life, but goes into far less detail about how he (supposedly) discovered and applied the technology that allowed him to pass the basic fake-screening tests of his day. Since this book casts a colder eye at the stories and actions of van Meegeren we may also need to question the veracity of his own statements about how he developed the paints and aging process that he used in his fakes.

    Within its pages, Mr. Lopez looks not only at the making of the fakes, but also at the way in which the man made himself appealing to whatever group was currently in power. Whether it was using mimicry (as was accepted) as an art student to win a prize, or to paint in a manner that the wealthy and powerful admired (and flattered them in the portraits he created), or to incorporate visual elements that “borrowed” from the occupation government and the Nazi regime during WWII he gives us examples and first-hand accounts. Like a book of literary criticism, this book delves into the technical aspects of his art in all its forms. The quality of the fakes is examined (it is in both books, but more so here): but Mr. Lopez does not limit himself to the sloppy brushwork and incorrect pigments of the later paintings. He looks at the compositions of the paintings and how they relate back to true paintings by the artists that he copied. If you are more of an art lover and historian, this book will satisfy your critical faculties better.

    The last 70+ pages of the book (before the index) is composed of an Author’s Note, endnotes, bibliography, and picture references. In both tone and composition it is a more scholarly work. The author himself is an artist and although that may not give him any special insight into to how to construct a critical book, I think he’s done a pretty good job of it. Of course it helps that he writes articles for periodicals (some of which were incorporated into this book).

    If you only wanted to read one book about Han van Meegreren, then this is probably the one. It covers his life in all phases (however briefly at points), his art, his fakes, and how he was perceived by the world of art lovers and by the Dutch (before and after his arrest). If you want a deeper look at his early life and his painting methods, then I recommend also reading “I Was Vermeer”. It is a much more romantic look at the man and while it may be based on not-always-reliable facts, it has color reproductions of the paintings both real and faked. Together they offer a pretty complete look at the man.

    But as for this book, it is well-written, very measured in how much space is devoted to the various aspects of van Megeren’s life, and gives more insight into how art experts operated and how specific individuals were regarded as they authenticated (or not) newly-found paintings. Ii think it is well worth reading and I am scoring it a full “4”.


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