Dan Sandman

18: I Was Vermeer by Frank Wynne

In Art, Biography, Books, Non-Fiction on 02/05/2014 at 12:00 pm

I Was Vermeer by Frank WynneBefore he became an art forger, Han van Meegeren was an excellent painter of original realistic works with a fantastic technique and a number of successful projects to his own name. He had won a prestigious award, held profitable exhibitions, and had even sketched what was to become the most reproduced image in twentieth century Holland. But whilst Han van Meegeren was still a young man, still creating naturalistic paintings, the art world had dramatically changed, turning first towards impressionism and later to cubism. By the 1920’s, Han was incensed and embittered against these changes, enraged by the movement away from the rules of academic painting. Han had harvested a great sneering contempt for art critics and several bad habits – alcohol, morphine and prostitutes. And yet, despite Han’s personal troubles, he was extremely meticulous in his approach to forgery. Han van Meegeren fooled his enemies, swindled the Nazis, and painted with a vengeful passion.

In this biography, Frank Wynne brings this exciting story to light with a cultured intelligence. Employing engaging headings and quotations, each chapter invites the reader to discover more. The story explores in some detail the hows and whys of the forger’s life. How he used Bakelite (the first commercially made plastic) to resemble antic varnish. Why he had initially become an artist as a revolt against his father.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to a friend. In particular, I admired the writer for appropriately balancing just enough attention to detail with the right amount of psychological insight. Indeed, as I appreciated this gripping life story, I had to remind myself that I was reading non-fiction. That is because the facts of the story have been crafted in a novelistic way, both to inform and to delight.

Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction.

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