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John Myatt's Biography

John Myatt - Charing Cross Railway Bridge (Claude Monet)

A competent artist who never got the breaks, John Myatt might have remained a footnote on the page of art history. True, not many artists can lay claim to having written a Top 40 tune as he had - Silly Games in 1979 - but he wanted to be known for his art, not as a one hit wonder.

Casting around for ideas, Myatt remembered that a few years earlier a friend had offered to pay him 300 to copy a painting by the French Post Impressionist Raoul Dufy. His friend had been delighted with the result reporting that the copy was so good it had fooled experts. At the time Myatt had shrugged off the compliment but now it played on his mind, perhaps he'd found a way to work at home after all. In 1986 he placed a classified ad in Private Eye, '19th and 20th century fakes for 200' and a perfectly legitimate business venture was born. His materials were unorthodox - Myatt used household emulsion mixed with K-Y jelly to add body and fluidity to his brush strokes - but the results were pleasing.

One evening Drewe phoned Myatt, "I took one of your paintings to Christie's, and they said it was worth 30000."

Myatt says "That was the moment that the legitimate business stopped and the crime began.

I said: I can't believe it. Are you aware it's painted in emulsion paint?" He admits to being flattered, "My vanity was quite ghastly," he says. "The mistake occurred here. My reaction was to express an interest.

He rapidly painted his way through 20th century art history: Ben Nicholson, Nicolas de Stael, Le Corbusier, Matisse, Roger Bissiere. He admits, "I took no trouble technically. There was a negligence to everything I did."

He worried that his fraud would be discovered but Drewe calmed him, telling him how brilliant he was and how rich he would get. "I was flattered into thinking I was a man of importance." Yet Myatt could not shake the feeling that "...this would all end in tears."

And indeed it did - in 1999 John was sentenced to 12 months for Art Fraud and eventually served 6 months in Brixton Prison. Upon his release the arresting officer (from Arts & Antiques Squad, Scotland Yard) contacted John and became his first customer for one of John Myatt's 'Genuine Fakes'.

"Although I frequently use modern paints and canvasses the hope is that the finished painting will deceive the eye into thinking that it is seeing a new work by an established master".

John Myatt's Artwork

Charing Cross Railway Bridge (Claude Monet)
by John Myatt
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The Letter (in the style of Raoul Dufy)
by John Myatt
Starry Night With New Day Dawning
by John Myatt