Eric Hebborn 20 March — 11 January was an English painter and art forger and later an author. Eric Hebborn was born in South Kensington , London in According to his autobiography, his mother beat him constantly as a child. At the age of eight, he states that he set fire to his school and was sent to Longmoor reformatory in Harold Wood , although his sister Rosemary disputes this. This sowed the seeds of his forgery career. Hebborn returned to London, where he was hired by art restorer George Aczel.

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The prolific forger whose fake 'Old Masters' fooled the art world. Written by Christy Kuesel. This article was published in partnership with Artsy, the global platform for discovering and collecting art. The original article can be seen here. Art dealer Eric Hebborn had a golden rule: He never worked with amateurs.

Anyone looking to buy a painting or drawing from his business, Pannini Galleries, needed to be someone who specialized in art, who believed themselves able to tell if a work was a genuine Brueghel or Van Dyck. And if after they took that artwork home or sold it to another gallery or a museum, it turned out to be a fake, well, that was on them for failing to recognize a forgery. Hebborn, who died in , is widely considered to be the greatest art forger of modern times.

By his own estimate, he created over 1, forgeries. Hebborn's upbringing combined his astonishing artistic talent with his limitless capacity for mischief. At the age of 8, he was unjustly accused of playing with fire -- he said he responded to this allegation by actually setting his school ablaze. He picked up additional skills in imitating the Old Masters by working as an art restorer after he graduated. Hebborn later opened Pannini Galleries with his longtime romantic partner Graham Smith and developed personal and professional relationships with a number of key figures in the London art world, including art dealer Hans Calmann, and Christopher White, a specialist in Old Master drawings at the oldest commercial gallery in the world, Colnaghi.

Hebborn famously befriended Anthony Blunt, an art advisor for Queen Elizabeth II who later revealed himself to be a Russian spy though Hebborn wrote in his memoir that he was unaware of Blunt's spying activities. The year after he opened the gallery, Hebborn moved to Italy. Insisting he was not a criminal, Hebborn subscribed to his own moral code. He let experts make their own opinions about his work without input from him, and he would charge similar prices for his Old Master forgeries as he did for the works he made under his own name.

Refusing to be remorseful for his misdeeds, Hebborn believed the art world itself was to blame. He looked down on art experts who claimed to be able to tell whether a work was genuine based on the style, when it's difficult enough to sniff out a fake using sophisticated scientific analysis.

As a master draftsman, he believed the ability to draw was crucial in being able to evaluate a work's authenticity. A forger's downfall. The master forger's attention to detail proved to be his own undoing. Many of his fakes passed muster due to the fact that he used paper from the time period of the artists he was emulating; he similarly mixed pigments himself from materials that would have been available in earlier eras.

Colnaghi then issued a statement about concerns over Old Master drawings purchased from Hebborn, though the gallery did not publicly name him. Can artificial intelligence produce a masterpiece? In a letter to The Times of London in , Hebborn wrote: "Instead of stressing how clever the possible imitations are, it might be more rewarding to examine the abilities of those who made the attributions and on whose advice large sums of public money were spent.

The Colnaghi incident didn't slow Hebborn down; he claimed to have made another forgeries after he was exposed, and sold them to dealers who were perfectly willing to accept works of questionable provenance. In some cases, these dealers even asked him to "find" Old Master drawings, which he forged and then sold to them. The legacy of fakery. Hebborn was never charged with any crime. His appearance in the BBC documentary was among his first steps into the public eye, followed by the publication of his memoir "Drawn to Trouble: Confessions of a Master Forger" that same year.

He charged Sotheby's, Christie's, Colnaghi and his friend Hans Calmann with subpar expertise that allowed his works to make their way into some of the most notable art institutions in the world. In his memoir, Drawn to Trouble, Eric Hebborn claimed he forged this etching, which ended up in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Both the museum and Hebborn's former romantic partner dispute this account. But the mystery didn't end there: Plenty of museums dispute the fact that works hung in their galleries are actually fakes.

Both the J. But in the absence of scientific evidence, we may never know how many museums still proudly display genuine Hebborns, attributed to someone else. Peter Gerard, a filmmaker working on a series about the master forger based on Hebborn's memoir, thinks his story is still relevant in this "era of questionable authenticity of images. But Hebborn scoffed at experts long before the dawn of the "Post-Truth Era. The man on the phone: What's it like making history's highest auction bid?

The mythic art world swindler met an unsettling end; in , Hebborn was found with his skull fractured in Rome, where he had resided for 30 years. Despite rumors that the mafia was involved in his death, no one has ever been arrested in connection with the crime.

Decades after Hebborn's death, concerns over authenticity in the art market remain alive and well. Last month, an Italian painter was arrested in connection to a forgery ring; he stands accused of forging works in the styles of El Greco and Correggio.

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Eric Hebborn

Death of a Forger. Denis Dutton University of Canterbury. The murder of Eric Hebborn on January 11th brought to a close one of the most illustrious careers of any twentieth-century forger. His body was found on a street in Rome, the city where he had lived since the s, with his skull broken, probably by a hammer blow from behind. His mother apparently delighted in beating him, and from what he describes, he must have provided no little provocation.


The prolific forger whose fake 'Old Masters' fooled the art world

Post a Comment. April 16, Those who study art crime already know about the mysterious death, on a rainy morning in Rome, of the king of counterfeiters, art fraudster Eric Hebborn. But was his death at the hands of the Mafia, poor drunken coordination, or, a lack of follow-up care at the hospital? How the famous forger died has long been debated, despite evidence pointing clearly to the latter. Splashed across art newspapers and major news outlets this weeks, articles are popping up about an upcoming ambitious TV drama that is set to highlight the famous con man and the suspicion of mafia involvement in his death in Trastevere. Eric Hebborn was a wiley and talented artist, who got his first taste for paintings fraud creating pencil drawings of Augustus John based on a drawing of a child by Andrea Schiavone.

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