The Art of Forgery—2009 Hugh F. McKean Public Lecture
March 10, 2009
Author and journalist
On the surface, there was nothing about Han Van Meegeren that would have suggested a master forger. Yet this otherwise minor Dutch artist orchestrated one of the most audacious hoaxes in art history, fooling first a trusted Nazi minister and then the entire art world.
Author and journalist Edward Dolnick plumbed the depths of this amazing story in his popular recent book, The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century (HarperCollins, 2008).
The Morse is pleased to announce that Mr. Dolnick will be personally sharing his insights into this captivating tale at the Museum’s 2009 Hugh F. McKean Public Lecture. The McKean Public Lecture, presented by the Morse in association with Rollins College, will be held Tuesday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the John M.Tiedtke Concert Hall on the Rollins College campus. Admission is free. A reception, also open to the public, will follow the lecture. Parking is available in the SunTrust Parking Garage in Winter Park, which is accessed via Lyman or Comstock avenues off of Park Avenue.
The Morse initiated its Public Lecture in 2004 as a platform for bringing speakers to the community whose specialty in art held relatively broad public interest. The more popular subject matter of these lectures distinguish them from others presented at the Morse, which are also free to the public but more narrow in topic.
Mr. Dolnick’s lecture is our sixth such successful collaboration with Rollins. And beginning this year, the Museum is designating this special address as the Hugh F. McKean Public Lecture in honor of Mr. McKean’s career as an educator, his love for art, and his vision for enriching the community through the Museum with a knowledge and appreciation of art. Mr. McKean was president of Rollins College from 1951 to 1969 and the Museum’s director until his death in 1995.
The Forger’s Spell is Mr. Dolnick’s second book on art crime. The Mystery Writers of America awarded Mr. Dolnick its Edgar Award for The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece (HarperCollins 2005), a riveting account of the 1994 theft of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Mr. Dolnick is the former chief science writer for the Boston Globe, and he has written on a variety of topics for publications such as the Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in Washington, D.C.
In his talk for the Morse, “The Art of Forgery,” Mr. Dolnick will reconstruct the infamous story of perhaps the most brazen art hoax of all time. Central to the plot is the incredible swindle that a crafty Dutch forger perpetrated against Hermann Goering, Hitler’s most trusted minister and chief rival when it came to looting Europe’s great art treasures. Goering, who “acquired” thousands of paintings, sculptures, drawings, watercolors, and art objects from Nazi-occupied countries, coveted work by Johannes Vermeer above all others. After twice losing out to Hitler himself when a rare Vermeer became “available,” Goering was greedily snapped up a long-lost Vermeer religious work when it surfaced in Holland, bartering 137 paintings from his collection for it. But the painting was a forgery by the mediocre painter Han Van Meegeran.
Flush with success, Van Meegeren went on to paint more “Vermeers,” selling them to eager clients for about $30 million in today’s dollars. His deception may have gone undetected forever but for the efforts of a Dutch resistance fighter who, at war’s end, set out to round up Nazi collaborators in Holland and Van Meegeren was arrested.
According to Publishers Weekly, “Dolnick’s compelling look at how a forger worked his magic leads to one sad conclusion: there will always be eager victims waiting to be duped.”