fake Van Gogh Paintings?

My question is a general one, namely, aftewr an artists is dead, how can experts determine if a painting (attributed to him) is really by him? take Van Gogh-I’m told there are several dozen paintings thoiught to be by him, which are actually forgeries. these started showing up in the 1920’s-about 30 years after Van Gogh died. They look amazing like his authentic works, yet, there isn’t enough hard eveidence to prove that they were by him (Van Gogh being close to insane for the last years of his life). Plus, Van Gogh was not popular till after he died. So-what do you do if you own a fake? is there a re market for van gogh knock-offs?

If you paid Van Gogh prices for a fake, you can sue the dealer for misrepresenation. Hard to say if you win – you’d have to prove the dealer knew or should have known of the fake.

But you may just like the picture and figure it’s worth it.

For museums, they can either take the picture down, reattribute it to the actual artist (if known), or use the “school of/workshop of” attribution (e.g., “Workshop of Rembrandt” if it was painted by one of its pupils.

I don’t know.

There is however a market for artists specialising in fakes. One such with a high profile in this field of endeavour is Tom Keating.

Mind you, if you think that Pissaro on your bathroom wall is genuine:

And now the biter is bit:

I guess that, as Keating copied about 100 master painters during his lifetime, it would seem unreasonable for him to have omitted Van Gogh from his impressive portfolio of victims.

I was just reading a series of Steven J. Gould’s essays, and in one he tosses of the possibility that the copy of VG’s sunflowers that Japanese firm paid $20-some million for a while back might be a fake. I think he even suggested the possibility of the forger being a specific identified individual.

I hadn’t heard that before, and SJG was usually pretty darned careful about the veracity of the info he cited.

Is there a market for the celebrated Dutch forger’s (van Meeghren) works? he knocked off some pretty good imitations of vermeer…and was quite popular. I knowthat art experts have lots of ways of screening out fakes; but i think it is p[robably difficult for a van Gogh fake-he painted in a fairly modern era, and most of the same pigments he used (in the 1880’s) are still used today. What ought to be really unprovable-modern abstract artists- it probably is pretty easy to fake a jackson pollack “paining”-just drip paint on to a canvas.

From the link given in post #3:

Apropos of nothing, the forger credited with artistically creating everything from luncheon vouchers to paintings by ‘Hitler’ Konrad Kujau eventually served 4 years in prison for inventing The Hitler Diaries. When he was released he announced his intention to write his memoirs. An autobiography The Originality of Forgery duly appeared in 1998, at which point Kujau complained that he hadn’t written the book and didn’t know anything about it.

Delicious. :slight_smile:

The answer is “you can’t”. Sure many people are paid tons of money to “authenticate” paintings, and they may go into detail telling how the can tell by brush stroke, color scheme, etc. But the bottom line is there are probably hundreds of paintings deemed original that aren’t and just as many deemed as fake that aren’t.

Only to the untrained eye. Any expert worth his salt can spot a fake Pollack in a heartbeat. For one thing, the experts are aware of all his existing works; it’d be very unusual to find an “unknown” Pollack.

Probably most aspiring artists go through a Jackson Pollack period, assuming that it’s something anyone can do. They’re wrong. I’ve tried a few myself, and though I’ve had interesting results, they’re my work, not his.

I shudder at the thought of some future “artist” producing fake Thomas Kinkades.

Ditto what panache45 said. Pollock’s paintings actually have a lot of fractal type patterns in them, most likely unintentionally. Here’s an interesting article on it. I imagine it would be the sort of thing that would be difficult to reproduce, but if you were able to, that sort of fake painting may fetch some money.

Do you really think so? What impressed me the most about the van Meeghren case was how little his paintings looked like real Vermeers! I thought the reason people bought into his forgeries was because they wanted so desperately to assert national pride, and this bias distorted their vision. That, or else as styles and tastes change, people actually saw Vermeer differently. But as I think van Meeghren’s work looks nothing like Vermeer, it was precisely this lack of similarity that I found most fascinating. Am I alone in thinking this way?

Nowadays, with advanced technology, it’s almost impossible to forge a past master. Microscopy has shown some “Renaissance” paintings to be fakes because the pigment was too finely ground, and therefore of modern origin. The krinkles in the paint film, the pattern of cracks, the kind of dirt in the cracks, are all useful clues in spotting fakes. Infared reflectometry, neutron scattering, mass spectroscopy, etc, give signitures so finely characteristic that they’re impossible to fake. Oil paint that’s dried since the 50’s contain trace elements from atmospheric nucler testing. For a painting as valuable as a Van Gogh, if it’s authenticity is questioned, it’s worth the expense of these technical tests.

The lesson in this is that if you’re going to forge something, don’t forge something too valuable.

No. I could hardly believe anyone bought the idea, even if they were supposed to be juvenile works. Maybe it was because of the lack of mass media – you didn’t have the exposure you had even a little later in time to good reproductions.

I remember when I read Cellini’s autobiography, being amazed to think of how great artists of his time had to physically go and look at paintings – how unavailable art was to most people. I love the internet.

You are not alone!! I am AMAZED that anyone ever mistook a van Meegeren for a Vermeer. The differences, to me, are obvious–especially the facial features.

I am glad I am not the only one who thinks this. Surely there are some “experts” that agree…

An article I read claimed that the so called experts initially refused to believe him, so he painted one of his forgeries right in front of them!

You are correct: the celebrated dutch art historian (Dr. Abraham Bredius) though van Meegeren’s early “Vermeers” were forgeries. However, he changed his mind. Vermeer was a perfect artist to forge-he produced a small number of paintings, and he held to an identifiable style. But the case of van Gogh is different-he is close to us historically, and he was insane for many years-many of his later works were unsigned, and sold off for pennies-so there is a good chance that a few might emerge at some estate sale in france.

(bolding mine)
Wouldn’t that make Van Gogh a more attractive target for forgery? A higher likelihood of unknown Van Gogh’s out there = a higher likelihood that a forgery could be passed off (at least for a short time) as an unknown Van Gogh?

You’re not alone.

A few years ago, I looked long and hard at the shit this guy passed off as Ver Meers and I find it almost impossible to believe they fooled even dumb ass Nazis.

But if memory serves, van Meegeren painted his way to an acquital (or not guilty or whatever). He did this in court and before the judge, jury and court attendees. I’d love to have been there.

Google on van Meegeren. He wasn’t very good, but apparently, he had balls of titanium.

In defense of van Meegeren (never thought I’d say that!) and the old art historians, when he was working there was a pile (well, small pile) of disputable Vermeer attributions, especially a few ‘early Vermeers’ from the early 1650s that had come out in the late 1800s with these dodgy attributions (like any good curator’s going to admit that their Vermeer is actually a Erasmus Quellenius or something) and v M’s paintings look quite a bit like those. Like, IIRC, at the time there was a small pile of ‘early Vermeers’ and a less small pile of Late Vermeers, and he sort of invented some new early ones and a ‘middle period’ that fit into the then-current (questionable) canon.

Like, find an image of a Christ in the House of Mary and Martha in Edinburgh-- looks quite a bit like van Meegeren’s stuff.

Plus, you learn to have a bit of pity for those early art historians who often had to make attributions based on memory alone or limited-quality reproductions–like,engravings and shit. When you look through those old connoisseurial studies it’s always like “And as I looked at the figures’ hands it brought to mind the altar in Dresden, so this must also be the Master of the Housebook” (or whatever)-- now you look at these bodies of work that show up in the early art books with better photos and think "WTF, how could someone have EVER thought this Master of St Goar was by the Housebook Master? "

And also a bit of wishful thinking I’m sure fits in-- I think perhaps every Matthias Grünewald ever discovered was first given to Dürer, which is, of course, now laughable. Soon all of these Rembrandts that are being reattributed will strike us as redonk, but for the current moment if you show your average man on the street [if you know what I mean] the Polish Rider and suggest Willem Drost or Jan Lievens or Fabritius they’ll look at you like you’re a moron, because everyone knows it’s Rembrandt.

There’s a great book by Thomas Hoving called False Impressions: The Hunt for Big Time Art Fakes. IIRC, he has an very good and in-depth section on just how poor a painter and forger van Meeghren was.