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John Myatt speaks at Manchester Law Society art evening, Castle Fine Art

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 April 2017

Helen Hoath and  Julie Gervais de Lafond

Helen Hoath and Julie Gervais de Lafond

Copyright © Simon W Randall 2017 @ swrdigital.com

Described by Scotland Yard as ‘the biggest art fraud of the 20th century’, the life story of ‘fake’ artist John Myatt reads like a novel.

John was the guest speaker at a Manchester Law Society soiree at Castle Fine Art in the city centre and lawyers were intrigued by his story.

Drinks and canapés were served as John told how he discovered his talent for art mimicry at an early age. In 1983 he placed an advert in Private Eye offering ‘Genuine Fakes for £150 and £200’, from which a legitimate business was born. A call from ‘Professor Drewe’, resulted in John producing 14 paintings over two years – generating much-needed cash and the veneer of a business friendship.

In 1986 John created a painting for Drewe in the style of Cubist painter Albert Gleizes. Drewe called Myatt to tell him Christie’s had valued it at £25K. John received half the money in a brown envelope with no questions asked. He got drawn into Drewe’s deceit and painted 200 fakes from art history’s long line of masters.

In 1993 John finally put a stop to the fraud, but the law caught up with him in 1995 when Drewe’s ex-partner ‘blew the whistle’.

John assisted at every step of the investigation and was eventually handed a 12-month sentence and released from Brixton Prison after four months for good behaviour. After his release, John swore he would never paint again, but Searle - the Scotland Yard detective who arrested him, commissioned a family portrait and convinced him to return to his easel.

In 2005 John’s first originals exhibition in London was a complete sell-out. Happily married to his second wife, Rosemary, since 2001, with five adult children between them, he is now a committed Christian.

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