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Seven Famous Art Forgers of Oil Paintings Who Faked The Most

What Are Forgery Artists View on Art Forgeries

We may think that an art forger forges because he/she wants to play a trick on the world of art or wants to earn massive loads of money. Those are the apparent motivations; yes, and they stand true in many cases. But, some of the art forgers that we have for you here, in our list of the world’s most famous forgers of oil paintings, have a somewhat complicated take on the phenomenon. Some of these forger artists appear to push the boundaries; some transcend them. Though it is a crime to forge a renowned work of art, the amazing feats performed by these forgers are, down to the last drop, worthy of the interest of a lover of art if not worthy of celebration.

Top Seven Famous Painting Forgeries

Let us all take a sneak peek at the world’s most fascinating forgers of oil paintings:

Mark Landis (1955 – present)

Picasso fake

It is believed by many historians that Mark Landis has, in his lifetime, prepared, readied and presented over one hundred forged oil paintings in around 20 different states of the United States of America. This famous art forger donated his (forged) works to art museums for free. He admitted that he was initially motivated to donate the replicated works because he wanted to please his own parents. Soon the dignitary regard in which the authorities at the museum held him up replaced his initial motivation and he became in someway hooked to it.

Not All Forger Artists Fake For The Sake of Money

The American painter never received a single dollar bill for the paintings that he donated. To complete these donations, he used various different fake personas to make it seem natural. He is even quoted to have once dressed up as a priest for the same purpose. This particular art forger is a living breathing example that not all forgers forge for the sake of money. Noah Charney, the American art historian speaks of Mark Landis in memorable words.

One of Landis’ replications of a Picasso painting he chose to donate to an art museum in Florida. It is the painting attached with this text.

Icilio Federico Joni (1866 – 1946)


The story of Icilio Federico Joni too is a rather intriguing one. Rumor has it that He felt the works of renaissance painters very deeply and thought of himself as the reincarnation of one. He spent quite some years forging paintings and became very skilled at what he did. He then sold a few of his works as original pieces to Bernard Berenson, a famous art historian of that time. When the art historian realized he had been tricked, he went back to Italy and met with the masterful art forger, Joni again. Berenson told him how he admired his art. Many believe that the art historian bought Joni’s works and sold them to museums and art collectors as originals making a great deal of profit from them, whilst, at the same time, separating some of them to be kept in his own personal collections as reminders of Joni.

William Sykes (The 18th Century)

van eyck

With this story, we prove that art forgery isn’t about creating a replica that is somewhat convincing enough to be taken for an original. The master forgery that William Sykes pulled off goes against all norms of forgery as we know it. Somewhere in the eighteenth century, Sykes, made the Duke of Devonshire believe that a painting, from an anonymous origin, featuring an unknown/unidentified saint, was a work of the very famous renaissance painter Jan Van Eyck. According to Noah Charney, Jan Van Eyck’s works rose to unbelievable prices in auctions back in those times. The highest price to be attained by a painting at an auction in that time was but a painting by Van Eyck. The picture above is one of Jan Van Eyck’s paintings titled Virgin and the Child with Canon ban der Peele.” It has all the prominent features of a typical painting from the renaissance era.

Han Van Meegeren (1889-1947)

van-meegeren-deerNobody knew of the works of Han Van Meegeren’s until after the second world war (WWII), when a painting was found in a senior Nazi officer’s art collection. It was a strange painting of Johannes Vermeer (with the artist’s signature). That piece lead the investigators all the way back to Han Van Meegeren. He had been previously rejected as an original artist by his people, the Dutch so. Plus, evidence pointed out that the Vermeer painting was actually a forged copy by Van Meegeren. This art forger was soon brought to court and charged with illegally selling a national treasure of the Dutch soil and also for negotiating with the nation’s enemy. Fearing the noose, Van Meegeren formally confessed in front of the court that the painting found in the enemy’s possession wasn’t the original but a forged copy of it painted by him. People say that the work he produced was so finely made and so brilliantly copied that it couldn’t be told from the original. He went on forging another painting while he was in jail. The painting above is one of Han Van Meegeren’s original drawings. It is called ‘The Fawn’.

Tom Keating (1917 – 1984)

keating copy

Through the course of history, many artists have turned to forgery after being rejected as original artists. Tom Keating was one of them. He had a remarkable record when it came to forging paintings. He finishing over two thousand (2000) copies of paintings from over one hundred (100) different artists from different eras. He was eventually caught and put to trial and convicted for his crime. After doing his time in jail, Keating got a role on a hit British Television series. In the show he made forgers out of aspiring artists. According to the art historian Noah Charney, Christie’s put two hundred and four (204) of his paintings up for auction after his death.

John Myatt (1945 – Present)


John Myatt forged works of a few of the most famous painters of all time including Chagall, Giacometti and together with John Drewe, his art dealer, he managed to sell them as originals. Drewe made fake records of the paintings that Myatt finished and then added the records to real archives so that some day, the art world would stumble upon them, take them for the real thing and buy them. He was caught eventually and so was his dealer but the duo had already caused some serious irreparable damage to art. They had by then distributed 200 fakes into museums and collections. Only 60 of them have been uncovered as yet. After the end of his time in prison, John Myatt started helping the police track down forgers. The master forger now has a business of his own where he sells his trademark: “genuine fakes” that bear the signature of their creator. Hollywood’s George Clooney, according to some reports, has taken deep interest in making John Myatt’s story into a movie.

Eric Hebborn (1934 – 1996)


Hebborn turned to forgery when he met with the disappointment of letting an art dealer buy a work of his from him and then selling it for multiple times more. He was a skilled painter and a graduate of the London’s Royal Academy of Art. Hebborn personally claimed that he had produced over 1,000 copies of paintings originally created by historically renowned artists such as Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Nicolas Poussin, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and more. These forgeries actually made it to auctions and then eventually became part of various esteemed art collections. He left behind two memoirs underlining his personal career. One of those papers revealed some tips for forgers in the making. Hebborn was victim of a murder in the city of Rome.