d2ab3301b32965151a70a6d806e697e5j John Myatt, Fake

In 1995, Myatt was arrested by Scotland Yard detectives and sentenced to 12 months in prison. This initial sentence was shortened to four months as Myatt cooperated during the investigation and showed good behaviour whilst in Brixton prison.

Myatt became a sensation in the art world. Whilst in prison, he was commissioned to create 'genuine fakes,' forging a successful career copying masterpieces, which his clients were completely aware were not the original piece of art.

John MyattImage: The Independant John Myatt
Image: The Independent

Today, Myatt is represented in Winchester's Canvas Gallery. Myatt began copying the works of the art history's greats when divorce left him a single parent. Working as an art teacher, Myatt began to recreate famous artworks in order to raise extra cash. His recreations soon spiralled into forgery and he became one of the 20th century's most lucrative fraudsters.

a70512a0ab881096d8bf5b8e176d86e7j Original John Myatt painting in the style of Henri Matisse

Myatt place a classified advert in Private Eye, offering genuine fakes of nineteenth and twentieth century paintings for around £150. He received a call from ‘Professor John Drewe’, a supposed nuclear physicist who was interested in buying a selection of works. Myatt produced 14 paintings for Drewe over the next two years, generating enough cash to support his family. At this stage, Myatt had no idea how fraudulent Drewe would turn out to be.

In 1986, Myatt created a painting in the style of French Cubist painter Albert Gleizes. Soon after, Drewe called to explain that he had the painting valued by prestigious art house Christie’s, who had been duped into believing it was an original, subsequently valuing the piece at £25 000. Myatt agreed to sell and, one week later, received 50% of the money in cash.

Lured by the promise of more income, Myatt created and auctioned 200 forgeries in the style of many art masters, including Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Alberto Giacometti. Nonetheless, Myatt himself was duped by Drewe who would keep the lion’s share of profits for himself. Tired of his business partner’s relentless lies, Myatt put a stop to the fraud in 1993.

Two years later, an ex-partner of Drewe ‘blew the whistle’ leading to the arrest of Myatt by Scotland Yard detectives.

Upon release Myatt declared he would never paint again, but the Scotland Yard detective who originally arrested him and the plaintiff’s barristers all wanted mementos of the court case. He was soon persuaded to return to his easel and was commissioned to paint portraits for those involved in the case.

42d57133f5805d7d23d2d1301b6a9b1cj John Myatt, The Starry Night

Myatt has continued to paint, with customers stretching from the UK to Canada and the Philippines. He also helps detectives to expose fraudulent schemes and his television programme Fame in the Frame on Sky Arts has seen him paint portraits of celebrities.

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