About the artist
Han van Meegeren (1889) studied architecture in Delft, the town of Johannes Vermeer. He broke off his studies to become an artist-painter, but before doing so he designed a boathouse for his rowing club in Delft. This club-house became the only architectural design Van Meegeren ever made. It still exists as can be seen in the picture below.
Han van Meegeren became a household name with his forgeries of Vermeer in the 1930s and 1940s, which managed to fool even experts. As a result, his own artistic talent has often been overlooked. He produced drawings, watercolours and oils of mainly impressionistic genre scenes, vignettes of fashionable life and romanticised Biblical representations, and was also much in demand as a portrait painter.
After a difficult start, living in poverty, he became a popular portraitist, painting portraits for the upper class in the royal city of The Hague.
Many fine portraits of this period still exist and are the proud possession of the present owners.
The portrait of his wife Jo, below, is a fine example of these portraits. With its height of over 70 cm (about 30 inch) it is impressive as well.
Van Meegeren was not satisfied with his success. He wanted to be valued as an artist of genius, not as a mere portrait painter. In 1932 he left for the South of France and worked there for many years at a fake Vermeer, a fake to become the most famous forgery ever.
This was the “Emmaus”, purchased by the art museum Boymans in Rotterdam, Holland. For many years it was considered the finest Vermeer ever made.
In 1945, some weeks after the conclusion of World War II, Van Meegeren was arrested because of another Vermeer; one he had sold to Hermann Goering, the second in command of the Nazi Reich.
For fear of being accused of collaborating with the Nazis he confessed that he had made this Vermeer himself. “It is a fake,” he told his interrogators.
At the same time he confessed having made the famous “Emmaus” as well and admitted several other fake-Vermeers, as well as fakes of other Old Masters of great repute.