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Former secondary school teacher John Myatt has become one of the fastest-selling artists in the UK after becoming embroiled in what Scotland Yard call "the biggest art fraud of the 20th century".

History and Background

A keen painter, John attended art college before embarking upon a career as an art teacher. Struggling as a single parent on a low income, he fell into the murky world of art forgery. 

Between 1986 and 1993, John faked as many as 200 works by 20th century painters and draughtsmen. Arguably one of the most sophisticated painting fraudsters in history, he was caught out only when his ‘Giacomettis’ and ‘Ben Nicholsons’ were identified by scholars as fakes. 

After cooperating fully with the police, he served a four-month sentence at Brixton Prison in London. 

Initially reluctant to ever paint again, he was persuaded to pick up his brush by the Scotland Yard detective who arrested him. He is now a legitimate artist with a string of celebrity followers, and in 2009 released a book about his experience, titled Provenance.  

Only 60 of John's forgeries have ever been recovered by the police, leading some critics to believe that the remainder still hang in museums and private collections where they are celebrated as original works. 

Ideas and Inspirations

Now known for his 'legitimate fakes', John is upfront about the way he is inspired by the work of artists before him. Comparing himself to an actor immersing himself in a role, he says he climbs into the mind of the artist to adopt their technique and emulate their style. 

David Lee, art critic and editor of art magazine The Jackdaw, says: "There is no question he boasts all the requisite qualifications for a top forger, principle among which is being able to examine the works of a celebrated artist and absorb their subjects, forms and colours to the degree that he is then able to create a convincing  new work from scratch."

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