Gallery director Markus Lawrence initially claimed that the small painting that he hung in a cafe in Reading, Houses at Auvers II (1890), was by Vincent van Gogh and a family heirloom that his great-grandfather had picked up in Paris in 1920 for 300 French francs (about $300 in today’s currency). Lawrence has since admitted, however, that none of that is true. Lawrence said he actually purchased the work himself about two years ago for £1,500.
“I never set out to deceive anyone,” Lawrence has said about the incident. “I just want to display the collection as a legacy to my grandfather.”
The painting, which hung at the Picnic Cafe for an hour to launch a festival in Reading, England was allegedly one of 200 works, including those of Cezanne, Degas, and Rembrandt, which Lawrence had inherited when his grandfather died in 1980.
Lawrence “insists” the painting is genuine but had said the painting had not been authenticated, though he claimed he had initiated an authentication process with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (the only entity with the power to determine whether or not it was a genuine work by the Dutch master) in the beginning of the year. The museum, however, informed the BBC that it had received an email from Mr. Lawrence for the first time on Monday.