According to his autobiography, his mother beat him constantly as a child. At the age of eight, he states that he set fire to his school and was sent to Longmoor reformatory in Harold Wood , although his sister Rosemary disputes this. This sowed the seeds of his forgery career. Hebborn returned to London, where he was hired by art restorer George Aczel.
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The original article can be seen here. Art dealer Eric Hebborn had a golden rule: He never worked with amateurs. Anyone looking to buy a painting or drawing from his business, Pannini Galleries, needed to be someone who specialized in art, who believed themselves able to tell if a work was a genuine Brueghel or Van Dyck. And if after they took that artwork home or sold it to another gallery or a museum, it turned out to be a fake, well, that was on them for failing to recognize a forgery.
Hebborn, who died in , is widely considered to be the greatest art forger of modern times. By his own estimate, he created over 1, forgeries. At the age of 8, he was unjustly accused of playing with fire -- he said he responded to this allegation by actually setting his school ablaze. He picked up additional skills in imitating the Old Masters by working as an art restorer after he graduated.
The year after he opened the gallery, Hebborn moved to Italy. Insisting he was not a criminal, Hebborn subscribed to his own moral code.
He let experts make their own opinions about his work without input from him, and he would charge similar prices for his Old Master forgeries as he did for the works he made under his own name. Louvre gets ready for its biggest ever Leonardo exhibition Refusing to be remorseful for his misdeeds, Hebborn believed the art world itself was to blame.
Many of his fakes passed muster due to the fact that he used paper from the time period of the artists he was emulating; he similarly mixed pigments himself from materials that would have been available in earlier eras. Colnaghi then issued a statement about concerns over Old Master drawings purchased from Hebborn, though the gallery did not publicly name him.
Can artificial intelligence produce a masterpiece? In a letter to The Times of London in , Hebborn wrote: "Instead of stressing how clever the possible imitations are, it might be more rewarding to examine the abilities of those who made the attributions and on whose advice large sums of public money were spent.
In some cases, these dealers even asked him to "find" Old Master drawings, which he forged and then sold to them. His appearance in the BBC documentary was among his first steps into the public eye, followed by the publication of his memoir "Drawn to Trouble: Confessions of a Master Forger" that same year.
In his memoir, Drawn to Trouble, Eric Hebborn claimed he forged this etching, which ended up in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Both the J. But in the absence of scientific evidence, we may never know how many museums still proudly display genuine Hebborns, attributed to someone else.
But Hebborn scoffed at experts long before the dawn of the "Post-Truth Era. The mythic art world swindler met an unsettling end; in , Hebborn was found with his skull fractured in Rome, where he had resided for 30 years.
Despite rumors that the mafia was involved in his death, no one has ever been arrested in connection with the crime. Last month, an Italian painter was arrested in connection to a forgery ring; he stands accused of forging works in the styles of El Greco and Correggio.
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