Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Lopez’

To see something new, go back to the sources

March 17th, 2009

Essential Vermeer interview with Jonathan Lopez, author of the The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren.

Han van Meegeren, the man who made Vermeers for decades, is justifiably the most written-about forger of all times. The most recent and original book on the topic is written by New York art historian Jonathan Lopez. Lopez casts new light on an old story by  fine tuning the results of years of patient research.

Two key points of the book are Van Meegeren’s hitherto underplayed Nazi sympathies and the mind set which allowed the greatest forger of all times to dupe the leading art specialists of his time. In order to explain the chasm between today’s unanimous view of Van Meegeren’s fakes as unsightly imitations and their original enthusiastic reception as true masterworks by Vermeer, Lopez reveals that “a fake doesn’t necessarily succeed or fail according to the fidelity with which it replicates the distant past but on the basis of its power to sway the contemporary mind.”

Jonathan opened up to an interview in which he explains what went into the book’s making and some fascinating side thoughts on Van Meegeren the man, whose brilliant darkness is probably better understood by Lopez than anyone else.

Taking a stroll in 17th-c. Netherlands

March 3rd, 2009

Writer, art historian and friend of the Flying Fox, Jonathan Lopez, wrote in recently…


Dear Jonathan,

Flying Fox readers might like to know that they can be transported back to 17th-century Holland by visiting a terrific show of Dutch cityscapes now up at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It contains wonderful town views of Amsterdam, Haarlem, Delft, Dordrecht, The Hague—all of the major Dutch cities—created just as the Netherlands was entering its golden age of prosperity after gaining independence from Spain.

Vermeer aficionados should be aware that the View of Delft, which was included in the version of this show at the Mauritshuis, is unfortunately not in Washington, as the picture is too delicate to travel. But there’s plenty of Delft to see in works by De Hooch, Steen, Vroom, and others. There’s even an amazing Vosmaer showing the explosion of the Delft powder magazine that claimed the life of Vermeer’s presumed teacher Carel Fabritius. (There’s also a very good Fabritius view of Delft in the show too.)

If anybody is interested in learning more, I have a full review of the exhibition in the current issue of Apollo but I really can’t recommend this show highly enough. It’s visually stunning and definitely worth a visit to Washington. It remains on view until the third of May.

All best,
Jonathan Lopez

Van Meegeren conference at MFA

February 11th, 2009

Vermeer and Van Meegeren: The Real and the Faux
Jonathan Lopez, author of The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren, and Ronni Baer, William and Ann Elfers Senior Curator European Paintings

Wed, Feb 25, 7 pm
Remis Auditorium

Dutch art forger Han van Meegeren became a folk hero at the end of World War II when he confessed to selling a fake Vermeer to Hermann Goering. Author Jonathan Lopez and curator Ronni Baer discuss the extravagantly sordid life of the world’s most notorious art forger and what he did to the image of the Vermeer we know and love.

Book signing follows.

MFA members, seniors and students $15: nonmembers/general admission $18.

Van Meegeren Lecture in Washington

December 18th, 2008

I would not miss the lecture or the book.

The Man Who Made Vermeers:
Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren

Sunday, January 11, 2009, 2:00 p.m.
East Building Concourse Auditorium, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Jonathan Lopez discusses aspects of his recently published book, The Man Who Made Vermeers: Han van Meegeren’s Life in Forgery. Book signing to follow. Sunday Lectures at the National Gallery are free and open to the public on a first-come-first-serve basis.

BTW, The Man Who Made Vermeers is fifth of the 10 Amazon Best Books of 2008 in the Arts & Photography section. Well deserved.

Can this happen again?

November 21st, 2008

The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez is the most penetrating and useful book written about the spectacular Han van Meegeren case of false Vermeers. Among its merits is an articulated answer to the crucial question skated by preceding studies: how could it have happened? In a nutshell here is the author’s answer: “a fake doesn’t necessarily succeed or fail according to the fidelity with which it replicates the distant past but on the basis of its power to sway the contemporary mind.”

This answer arouses a more insidious one: could it happen today? Let’s hear Jonathan’s take:

Well, I think anyone who says, “We could never be fooled again,” is probably a bit naive. Attractively packaged products of little inherent value continue to fool some of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in the world–for instance, the bond traders at Bear Stearns who were haplessly buying and selling bogus mortgage securities. But, that said, I think the possibility of anyone passing off a forged Vermeer today would be virtually nil. And I don’t think it’s just because of the advances that have been made in the scientific examination of pictures, although that’s part of it. The real problem is that you can only fool people if, on some level, they actively want to believe you. With the mortgage securities, for instance, Wall Street wanted to believe that risk could be managed through financial engineering–a kind of narcissism, if you think about it–but it all worked quite profitably for a while, and that made the whole scheme seem credible. In the 1920s and ‘30s, art experts still expected to find more Vermeers because it seemed only logical that such a skillful artist would have produced more works than the thirty-five that we know today. And since Vermeer had really only been rediscovered in the latter half of the 19th century, it seemed completely plausible that more of his paintings would eventually show up. In fact a couple did: The Girl with the Red Hat, for instance, was rediscovered in 1925. Today, there’s absolutely no expectation that any new Vermeers will turn up–and because there is no expectation, any fake would be greeted with intense skepticism. Van Meegeren operated in an entirely different atmosphere: he was making art historians’ dreams come true.

Bad Vermeers, great book

October 26th, 2008

In New York I recently met Jonathan Lopez whose The Man Who Made Vermeers has just been published. It is about the most colossal art forgery of all times: the fake Vermeer’s by Dutchman Han van Meegeren. Four years of intense research (Lopez is an artist himself and knows Dutch) and superlative writing skills gives new dimensions to a well-known story. Lopez reveals the master forger as an arch-opportunist, a cunning liar, and a fervent sympathizer of the fascist cause from as early as 1928. Deftly reconstructing an insidious network of illicit trade in the art market’s underworld, Lopez allows few reputations to emerge unscathed in this gripping incredibly readable book. Moreover, Lopez provides a plausable response to the question which all those who have taken up the case have tactfully avoided or inadequately addressed: how could the most renowned museum curators, art dealers and private collectors been taken by fakes which appear almost laughable today?

Even if you are like me and have until now turned a cold shoulder to the Van Meegeren story, the The Man Who Made Vermeers is a must-read. The L.A. Times book review says why.

Lopez will be speaking at the MET on November 14, 2008 , 6:00 pm. along with Walter Liedtke, curator of European painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lopez will be lecturing in other places too.