An exhibition of John Myatt's "genuine fake" masterpieces has been launched at Harrods. Some of them are expected to fetch five figure sale prices.
Myatt had a less than auspicious start to his career as an artist. In 1987 he started making replica paintings of masterpieces and selling them at auction as the real thing, and in 1995 he was given a four-month prison sentence for his actions. By this time Myatt had sold 200 works in the style of Picasso, Van Gogh and Chagall as originals.
Myatt vowed never to paint again when he left prison, but his arresting officer commissioned a family portrait and Myatt found the paintbrush hard to resist.
Speaking of his current collection at the Harrods fine art space, Castle Galleries, Myatt, 63, said: "You could buy one of these and pretend it was an original if you wanted to. They are presented similar to the originals, in a gilt frame. In fact, I have one customer in America who has an original Van Gogh hung behind bulletproof glass and he asked me to produce another for him, to hang next to it. None of his visitors has been able to tell the difference."
As for how to create a "genuine fake" canvas, the secret, says Myatt, is to scrutinise the original time and again: "You 'hypnotise' the original painting, look at the canvas, the thickness of the paint, the way it's presented. The rule applies to anyone from Rembrandt to Picasso, just learn to look at the original, stand in front of it."