Remember the item I blogged about a few months ago concerning German forgers on trial? They’ve been sentenced to prison now — about 5 years each. They made at least $14 million selling forgeries of 1920s German and Dutch artists.
The follow-up story gives us more idea of the forger — he sounds pleased with himself:
He felt a close connection with the artists whose oeuvres he sought to “complete,” calling his paintings the works that the artists should themselves have produced, but never got around to, Rode said. Beltracchi told the court that his pictures were sometimes almost “too good” for the artist, because he had the benefit of hindsight and knew how the artist and the history of art developed.
They were a clever bunch — I can see how they created a setting for the works that deceived dealers and experts.
The group not only produced and sold the paintings, it also invented an entire provenance for them, claiming the art came from either the “Jaegers Collection” or the “Wilhelm Knops Collection,” according to the Cologne court.
They said Werner Jaegers was Helene Beltracchi’s grandfather, while Knops was Schulte-Kellinghaus’s grandfather. The Beltracchi couple produced fake gallery and collectors’ labels to stick on the back of the canvases.
They even forged family photographs from the 1930s, showing paintings hanging in the background, with Helene Beltracchi posing as her grandmother, to convince potential buyers that the provenance was authentic. In fact, neither Jaegers nor Knops collected art, Kremer told the court.
. . .
The judge described how Beltracchi bought canvases dating from the 1920s, choosing those without too much paint on so that he could carefully remove it. He sometimes mixed his own pigments or bought antique paint kits. He became an expert in art history and the lives of the artists whose work he emulated.
In some cases, he took the titles of paintings listed as lost during World War II in directories of the artists’ works and recreated them from scratch.
But in the end, the experts hold themselves out as people who can see more in paintings than average people, and at that they failed. Here’s the whole story.