Jailed forger John Myatt is coming to Cumbria to exhibit his latest collection of work inspired by the great art masters.
The British artist will make a one-off guest appearance in the county at Keswick’s Treeby & Bolton Gallery on Saturday May 16.
He was sentenced to a year in prison in 1999 for what Scotland Yard described as “the biggest art fraud of the 20th century.”
Having initially advertised his work as £150 “genuine fakes”, an accomplice then started selling the forgeries as originals for tens of thousands of pounds to top auction houses and international dealers. The forged artists included Matisse, Chagall and Le Corbusier.
Now working as a legitimate, respected artist and presenting arts programmes on Sky TV, John’s amazing story is set to be told in a film to be shot at Pinewood Studios later this year.
But before that comes the trip to Cumbria to unveil his new spring collection of original pieces and signed limited edition prints from his critically-acclaimed body of work, called Fake. The free exhibition at Treeby & Bolton will also feature new pieces, including Elephant – in the style of Dali, plus Nymphea – in the style of Monet.
“I did what I did and I am who I am. I know that I’ll always be known as the art forger who duped the experts but while that period of my life is over, it set me on a path I never knew would be possible,” said John, speaking from the Staffordshire farmhouse where he lives and works.
“The difference between me and a forger is that I don’t do copies any more. While there are plenty of people who will copy a master, I will create a painting in the style of an artist – and there lies a very important distinction. And with this collection, I have stretched myself further than I have ever done,” said the ex-teacher, who will be 70 in August and who now works with the police to help expose art fraudsters.
“An original Monet is heading towards $55-60 million – maybe more. The biggest ‘genuine’ Monet I would do should be somewhere around $40,000,” said John, whose collection at Treeby & Bolton includes a Monet print in a limited edition of 49 for £2,500. His version of Vermeer’s classic oil painting Girl with a Pearl Earring is among those available for £1,950, with others starting at £995.
The presenter of TV’s Fame in the Frame and Virgin Virtuosos programmes will meet visitors at the Keswick gallery in Lake Road from 12.30-3.30pm and chat about his art. However, the exhibition of his work will open the week before his appearance and continue for a week until May 23.
Libbie Barton, manager of Treeby & Bolton, said: “John’s work is truly amazing – so amazing that experts couldn’t tell the difference between him and master artists – and that is all down to the genuine skill he has as an artist.
“His works challenge the arts world because they blur the edges between real and fake. Not only does this collection demonstrate his huge skill in different painting techniques, it also shows why John Myatt is a talent in his own right.”
Treeby & Bolton hosted an exhibition of his work seven years ago but he has never been to Cumbria to talk about his work until now.