Painter Vermeer was forged, new film


This video is called A Real Vermeer; Official Trailer, UK subs, 2016.

On 5 November 2016, I went to see the new Dutch film A Real Vermeer. The Internet Movie Database writes about it:

Young and talented Han van Meegeren is a rebel in the early 1920’s Amsterdam art scene.

This is incorrect. As the film shows correctly, Van Meegeren (1889-1947) was then in the The Hague art scene; not the Amsterdam one.

Van Meegeren was a technically able visual artist. He had a ‘reactionary’ dislike of avant garde artists like Picasso, much preferring art of long ago. He knew much about seventeenth century painters’ techniques, which would help him in forging ancient art. He was invited by quite some artistically conservative rich people to paint their portraits, making him well-off.

Because he paints in the style of his idols Rembrandt and Vermeer, critics find his work old-fashioned and they call him a copycat.

Just to prove a point, he produces a fake Vermeer and tries to pass it off as a real one. It works. Instead of revealing the truth and thereby embarrassing the art world, he continues to make money off his many forgeries. Soon he is caught in a web of lies and deceit, and his life spins out of control. Then one day, high-ranking Nazi Hermann Göring knocks on his door, looking for a Vermeer for his private collection.

Director Rudolf van den Berg has said that his movie ‘is not about the real Han van Meegeren’.

The film adds many fictional elements to the real story of Van Meegeren’s life. Eg, Van Meegeren did not meet Göring personally, as Van den Berg depicts; but sold his fake ‘Vermeer’ to the nazi bigwig via an intermediary.

When Van Meegeren was a teenager, his father did not want him to become an artist. As a punishment for his son’s artistic ambitions, the father made Han write again and again: ‘I am nothing, I know nothing, I am unable to do anything’. In the film, when bad things happen to Van Meegeren, he writes these self-humiliating lines all over his studio. Though it is improbable that the adult real Van Meegeren did that, the authoritarian education by his father probably did leave negative marks on Han’s personality.

The main theme of the film is a supposed conflict between Van Meegeren and prominent Dutch art expert Abraham Bredius (1855-1946) about Bredius‘ wife; and that Van Meegeren started counterfeiting Vermeer as a revenge on his rival in love. The only true part in the film here is that Van Meegeren hated Bredius. However, ancient art specialist Bredius never judged twentieth century artists like Van Meegeren, as far as we know. There is also no evidence of Bredius’ wife being a factor in Van Meegeren’s actions. Bredius, in fact, never married; he was gay. Jólanka Lakatos, Bredius’ wife in the film, is fictional.

Van Meegeren and Jólanka Lakatos, film poster

This film poster shows Van Meegeren and Jólanka Lakatos. The caption at the top of the poster says, translated: ‘Only his love for her is real’. However, as Ms Lakatos is fiction, that would make everything about Van Meegeren in this film not real.

Christ at Emmaus, by van Meegeren

The real Bredius was really fooled by a Van Meegeren forgery, Christ at Emmaus, in 1937; and claimed it was a real Vermeer. On the authority of Bredius and other art experts, the famous Rotterdam museum Boijmans Van Beuningen bought the painting for much money. Ironically, much earlier, in 1883, Bredius had established his fame as a Vermeer expert by pointing out that another ‘Vermeer’ painting was not really by the Delft artist. And he established his reputation as a Rembrandt scholar by claiming scores of ‘Rembrandts’ were not really by Rembrandt.

Then, the issue of Van Meegeren’s extreme right sympathies. In the film, the lead character is in Italy; without commenting on a Mussolini propaganda poster there. Later, he speaks to his financial adviser in a room with an Adolf Hitler portrait on the wall. Again, without commenting on that.

Still later, during the nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Van Meegeren uses the nazi term ‘degenerate art‘ for avant-garde artists like Picasso whom he hates.

During the real nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the real Van Meegeren joined the pro-nazi art organisation Kultuurkamer and became very rich.

In the film, the master forger dedicates (this seems to have happened really) a drawing to ‘my beloved Fuehrer’ Hitler. Hitler is now disliked as an artistically conservative artist by many people; like Van Meegeren was disliked by pro-avant garde critics.

In Dutch movie magazine De Filmkrant, November 2016, reviewer Erik Spaans wrote (translated):

In Rudolf van den Berg’s A Real Vermeer art forger Han van Meegeren is depicted as a tormented artist and a rascal hungry for revenge. In reality, Van Meegeren’s motives were rather profit and opportunism.

Spaans bases this view on what he calls the best biography of Van Meegeren: The Man Who Made Vermeers, by Jonathan Lopez. An English producer has bought the film rights to Lopez’ book. Spaans hopes this will result in a more historically correct film about Van Meegeren.

This 2009 video from the USA is called Jonathan Lopez on “The Man Who Made Vermeers” at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

After the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich, Dutch authorities arrested Van Meegeren, as they suspected him of selling real ancient Dutch art to nazi enemies; which meant treason. As penalties for forging art were much lower than for treason, Van Meegeren then confessed that his ‘Vermeers’ and other ‘ancient Dutch masters’ were really by himself. He confessed that first to police; not in a public session of a court of justice, as the film depicts it. It turned out that the confession was true, and Van Meegeren was sentenced to one year in prison for forgery, not to a much harsher penalty for treason.

In 1947, just before the prison sentence would begin, Han van Meegeren died of a heart attack in a hospital (so, not ‘in prison’ as Spaans writes).

Many people started to see Van Meegeren as a sort of anti-nazi hero, someone who had managed to fool the hated Hermann Göring. According to Spaans, that is undeserved; and Van den Berg’s film does not say much against that.

Lost Alma-Tadema painting found again


The lost Alma Tadema painting, being hanged at the Fries Museum exhibition, photo by Marchje Andringa

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

A lost painting by Dutch-British painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema has surfaced in the BBC television program Antiques Roadshow.

Alma-Tadema was in the 19th century one of the most successful painters in the world. He was born in the Frisian village Dronryp, and later moved to London and became a naturalized Englishman. Alma-Tadema, who died in 1913, is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Bewilderment

The painting shows the engraver Leopold Löwenstein. Alma-Tadema gave it to Löwenstein’s wife. She was the nanny of the painter’s daughters. In 1913 the painting was last seen in public. A great-grandson of the engraver took it to the Antiques Roadshow, where the discovery caused bewilderment.

The episode of Antiques Roadshow will be broadcast tomorrow night on BBC One. Then the value of the painting will also be disclosed. The painting was restored after the discovery and added by the Fries Museum to their exhibition about Alma-Tadema which opens on 1 October.

This 20 September 2016 video is about that Alma Tadema exhibition, and the inspiration by that painter on Hollywood films about antiquity.

Colours in painting, video


This is a September 2016 video in Dutch, with English subtitles.

In it, Dutch artist Monica Rotgans discusses paint and other material used by visual artists.

According to Ms Rotgans, the colours in many old paintings have deteriorated through the ages, as, eg, paint decayed.

Eg, the painting The Potato Eaters by Vincent van Gogh now looks grimy and dark; while, just after Van Gogh had painted it, there was much more light in it.

The cause, Ms Rotgans says, is Van Gogh’s use of Prussian blue paint, which makes paintings darker as it decays eventually.

New Hercules Segers paintings discovered


This video shows the painting by Hercules Segers: View of Rhenen.

Music: Bach: Pastorale BWV 590.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Rijksmuseum discovers six new paintings by Hercules Segers

Today, 00:48

A team of specialists from the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum has discovered during the preparation of an exhibition on Hercules Segers six new paintings by the seventeenth-century artist. Segers’ work is very rare. Until this discovery art historians ascribed ten to twelve paintings to the painter and graphic artist. The total number of known works by Segers is now sixteen paintings and two oil sketches. …

Segers had his own technique for etching and printmaking. Art historians call him a pioneer of colour printing. Rembrandt owned eight of his paintings.

Between October 7 and January 8, 2017 a complete overview of Segers’ works will be in the Rijksmuseum. The exhibition consists of 18 paintings, 110 print outs and 54 prints. After January 8 the collection will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

See also here.

17th-century painting found again after 200 years


This 24 August 2016 Dutch video shows how five seventeenth century paintings, depicting local militia officers of Delft city, are brought together for the first time in over 200 years for an exhibition in the Prinsenhof museum in Delft, which will open to the public on Friday 26 August 2016.

Until recently, one of these five paintings was missing. It was the 1648 portrait by Jacob Delff II of the officers Willem Reyersz de Langue and Daniel Fransz van der Brugge. That work of art had disappeared at the end of the eighteenth century.

After more than 200 years, last year it suddenly turned up at an auction in Paris. The Prinsenhof museum was able to buy it. Then, they restored it.

This 24 August 2016 Dutch video shows the restoration of Jacob Delff II’s painting at the Prinsenhof museum.

This video shows that restoration as well.

Painter Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastic animals


Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, detail

This photo shows a detail of the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch.

As I blogged before, on 8 July 2016 we were in the natural history museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands, for the exhibition about animals in the paintings by Hieronymus Bosch.

Many animals in Bosch’ age were used as symbols, eg of sinful or good human qualities: eg, peacocks for vanity. The catalogue of the exhibition says that many of these late medieval-early Renaissance symbolic meanings have become lost and are unclear now. We don’t know whether Bosch interpreted animals as symbols 100% like some contemporaries did. There are doves in Bosch’ paintings. Symbols of peace? Or symbols of prostitution, which they also used to be sometimes? We cannot be sure.

There are four types of animals in Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. First, autochthonous west European animals which Bosch knew well. Like little owls: in The Garden of Earthly Delights, in The Wayfarer, and in St. Jerome at Prayer.

Or like the great tit in The Wayfarer.

Or like the magpie in The Wayfarer. According to the exhibition organisation, the magpie used to be a symbol of a soul liberated from sin. Also to Bosch? We cannot be completely sure.

The second category in Bosch’s work are exotic animals new for west Europeans; like giraffes. In his The Garden of Earthly Delights, in its left panel, Bosch depicted a giraffe. He very probably never had seen a living giraffe. The animal looks much like a picture from a book by fifteenth century Italian humanist Cyriacus of Ancona.

Cyriacus, according to a biography:

was not a religious man – not in the manner of most of his contemporaries.

Cyriacus’ ideas about science were at variance with Catholic Church doctrine. Much of his work got lost. That Bosch knew it and referred to it may be another sign of him being critical of religious (and secular) authority, besides other signs of that in his art.

Camel, by Hieronymus Bosch

Camels were then also considered exotic, like this one in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

In Bosch’s work there are also two kinds of fantasy animals. Animals which traditionally were supposed to exist, like unicorns and griffons. And animals which were products of Bosch’s own imagination; often half one animal species, half another animal species or object. Like the half spoonbill half ship in the Triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony. In this blog post we will now discuss mainly the last two categories, especially in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

Unicorn and birds

This detail of the painting shows, eg, a unicorn; a bird with three heads; a bird with an arrow-like tongue and a bird vaguely looking like a hummingbird.

The Tilburg exhibition also includes work by twenty-first century artists like Neige, inspired by Bosch’s fantasy animals.

Bird by Hieronymus Bosch

Here are two other birds in which Bosch used his imagination. One standing; one drinking.

Bird drinking, by Hieronymus Bosch

Birds by Hieronymus Bosch

And many more birds here; some may be real, some imaginary.

Griffon and deer by Hieronymus Bosch

In this detail are people riding not only on a horse, but also on a wild boar, on a deer with a surrealist kind of antlers, and on a griffon.

Griffon and deer and wild boar, by Hieronymus Bosch