The World of Fakes, Forgeries and Trickery by M Theresa Brown

Sometimes, in the course of creating art, it's fun to put down the paintbrush and delve into the little known realms of art history. I did just that when I came across an excellent article on "Varsity," an online publication from Cambridge University in the UK. The article "Faking it" is a well written and enlightening take on the world of forgeries and fakes in the Art world. The fact that the London Galleries, the Victoria and Albert as well as the National Gallery are holding an exhibition of art forgeries this year, is a testament to the roll (and havoc) that "fake art" has played throughout the centuries. And how economic turmoil fuels it!

That's right. Centuries of fakes and economics-good and bad. A good art history course will cover fakes and forgeries from the earliest known beginnings. When the classical period saw a consumer interest in owning anything Greek, the Romans reproduced Greek sculpture at a rate that the Chinese would envy! But this period was all about the look, not a particular artist. The real profit came later as particular artists' works escalated in popularity and price.

So what exactly is the difference between imitation and forgeries? Most artists are versatile. Having spent a good deal of time on the juried arts and crafts circuits across the US, I see it all the time. The exceptional quality of art created by these art professionals is amazing. I have seen everything from paintings to wall hangings to jewelry and is hard not to notice the unique style of each artist at a show with over 600 art vendors! Yet, creating a beautiful piece of art is not often enough. These traveling art gypsies are there to make a living and every so often I have seen customers line up at a booth while the other booths had minimal traffic. Just what was this hot product? Well, I guarantee that at the next show, a handful of these talented and versatile artists will be creating a similar or maybe even identical product. That is imitation.

A forgery on the other hand is creating the same product that the other artist creates and passing it off as having been created by that artist. It is designed to deceive. And money has always been at the root of it.

With the rise of a middle class in the 15th and 16th centuries, individual artists rose to the forefront in popularity. Even Michelangelo was once forced to sign his work when rumors spread that his "Pieta" had been carved by another. In the Varsity article," the gradual growth in the importance of the identity of the artist or author provoked Albrecht Durer to inscribe angrily on one of his engravings: “Be cursed plunderers and imitators of the work and talent of others”. Art, after all, had become a commodity...."
Rembrandt paid to join a gild created by a businessman which gave he and the other group artists permission to copy the best selling paintings of the day...thus the confusion over the provenance of a painting by Rembrandt or the "school of Rembrandt!"

And of course, forgeries don't stop with the arts. Anything that captures the public's eye as a popular commodity is fair game. Think of Rolex watches, fake jewelry, historical objects.....
The Varsity article goes a step further though in its observation of the timeliness of the exhibitions at the two major London Galleries," It’s little coincidence that (they), are holding exhibitions on art forgery this year. Their detailed explorations into the dark world of fakes, trickery and curator blunders, could not be more relevant today - covert and alarmingly common occurrences in a market straining to survive the recession. The last great period for forgers was the destitution of the 1980s; now that our economic situation is less confident than ever, can we be certain that the masterpieces we admire in galleries are real?

The article went on to list master forgers who go on to fame, occasional fortune and usually prison. One, John Myatt has now apparently gone legit, working with Scotland Yard and selling "original fakes" (wow-you have to admire this) for $100,000 or more! It further commented that the Lourve employs forgers to recreate their most famous and valuable pieces with the intent of protecting them from would be vandals. Apparently that Mona Lisa may not be the real thing. An artist quoted in a book authored by the late Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said that he only hoped that any poor examples of his works would be attributed to forgerers! And the Varisity article states that "even Picasso once remarked that he 'would sign a very good forgery.'”

So you have to hand it to the two London Galleries for holding such an exhibit on such a fascinating and controversial subject as Fakes and Forgeries! If you find yourself in London, "The National Gallery’s ‘Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries’ is open 30th June to 12th September, and the V&A’s ‘Metropolitan Police Service’s Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries’ runs from 23rd January to 7th February."

$100,000 for a genuine, original, fake Masterpiece? Maybe I better pick up that paintbrush again!

Check out Art Career Experts for more from M Theresa Brown!


Humble Beginnings by WIlson Bickford


Whenever someone finds out that you're an "artist," the first assumption is that you were "born with talent" and "came by it naturally." (and a hundred other comments which allude to the same idea). When it came to painting, I can assure you that I had no "gift" bestowed upon me.

Shown here is my first "serious" attempt at Oils more than 20 years ago.
At the time, I didn't think it was too bad, but I knew I had a very, very long way to go.

Art is a cumulative process. You'll learn the desired skills through study and practice. The more you invest, the greater the return (and the quicker that return will be).

At the time that I painted this, I had NO IDEA that one day, I would be a full-time artist, teacher and author of an instructional book. Painting literally led me down another road to a new career. I started out painting for my own enjoyment, not in search of a new "job."

I was told by friends and relatives to "keep your first painting so you can look back on it and see your progress." Boy, were they right! I am so glad that I've hung on to this all these years. Very often, I take this painting to my classes to encourage my students. We all have a good chuckle over it, but it definitely eases the anxiety in the room when they realize that they are no farther off the mark than I was, initially.

I've found that art boils down to these 4 essentials:
1. INSPIRATION - obtaining the desire to create
2. PERSPIRATION - putting in the hard work and study
3. DEDICATION - sticking with the “perspiration part” and not giving up
4. SATISFACTION - being confident in your abilities and level of work

From your initial attempt, you can only grow and improve. Don't be afraid to take that first step!

Preparing for Surtex - Website by Valerie (Valry) Drake


In my efforts to obtain an agent or a licensing contract, it is essential to have a web site and portfolio that correctly demonstrates my work. Since my day job is in the computer industry, I am fairly good with computer things. And since I am totally OC I tend to always want to do things MY way. Add to this the fact that I am not a high budget operation. Consequently, when I decided to have a website I did not even consider hiring a professional web design firm.

Just in case you are not familiar with having a web page, here are the pieces of the puzzle:

1. You need a domain name. This is the thing people type in to get to your page. Most people purchase their domain name from

2. You need a web hosting provider - this is someone who provides a server where your internet pages live. I have a wonderful provider based in Nashville, run by a real human being (also one of my facebook friends) John Covington. I pay a little more than some places but there are definite benefits.

3. You need a web site - the pages that people look at. They are created, just like any other computer document, one at a time in software designed for creating web pages. Actually, some word processing programs allow you to save as a web page. I use Adobe Dreamweaver CS3®. You can hire someone to create your web site. This is expensive and can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars and you also have to pay whenever you make changes to your web site. You can purchase a "template" and just fill in the blanks and many people are very satisfied with the results doing it this way. If you, like me, are OC, low budget and like doing things YOUR OWN WAY, just bite the bullet and buy the software. WARNING: This is the hardest software I have ever learned how to run, right up there even with CAD software.

Since I had an existing website, you might think I could just refer agents and manufacturers to it. Wrong! My web site has all sorts of stuff that is not at all relevant to the art I want to license. So I am also in the process of creating a licensing website: if you want to see it. Right now it is not complete. Just one more thing I am working on in my spare time.

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