John Myatt was once an art teacher turned forger, and in 1999 was convicted for taking part in what was called by Scotland Yard ‘the biggest art fraud of the 20th Century’. Using a mixture of emulsion paint and KY Jelly, John painted dozens of paintings in the style of famous 20th Century artists including Matisse, Giacometti and Ben Nicholson. Dealers in London and New York were fooled by his works, as were Sotherby’s and Christie’s.
His criminal period began in 1985, when his first wife left him. Formerly a teacher, he had to work from home to look after his two young children. Always keen on painting in the style of modern masters, he started selling them and putting an advert for ‘genuine fakes’ in Private Eye.
This was when his partner in crime, John Drewe, walked into his life. Drewe, a regular customer of John, told him Christie’s had paid £25.000 for John’s version of an Albert Gleizes, a French Cubist and offered him an envelope of money for John to paint more. John started creating “great masters” including Chagallis, Matisse and Giacometti, and Drewe sold them for a fortune to dealers and auction houses, By 1995 Drewe was forging Provence paperwork. They were rumbled when Drewe’s ex-girlfriend, angry at being abandoned, spilled the beans. John pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. Drewe got six years. ‘You can’t excuse it, ‘says John. ‘I don’t think of myself as dishonest, but I was dishonest.’
After he was released from jail. John had been planning to give it all up. ‘The police sent art material into Brixton for me, ‘says John. ‘One policeman commissioned a picture of his family, and the barristers in the case wanted a memento, too.’
Today, John Myatt makes a living as a professional artist producing A film “Genuine Fakes” which are original paintings in the style of famous artists. He also has appeared on numerous Sky Arts Shows including “Fame in the Frame”, and “Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge”. John is relieved to finally be able to make a living out of these legitimate paintings and he now advises the police on Art Fraud as well as St John’s College Oxford, St John’s Cambridge, Sotheby’s Institute, San Diego Museum of Art and other conferences via Zoom with the late Charley Hill who recovered Edvard Murch’s “Scream”.
A film “Genuine Fakes” covering this criminal part of his life is in process of being produced by Green Eye Production Academy and is due to be released later in 2021.