Forger Elmyr-de-Hory

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The famous Forger....

This famous artist died in (1906 – December 11, 1976) was a Hungarian-born painter. He claimed to have sold over a thousand forgeries to reputable art galleries all over the world. They garnered much celebrity from a Clifford Irving book and from F for Fake, a documentary of sorts by Orson Welles, making his works popular in their own right.

The graphic is of Orson Welles

Most of the information regarding the artist's early life comes from what he told American writer Clifford Irving, who wrote the first biography about him. Since his success was reliant upon his skills of deception and invention, it would be difficult to take the facts that he told about his own life at face value, as Clifford Irving himself admitted. He claimed that he was born into an aristocratic family, that his father was an Austro-Hungarian ambassador and that his mother came from a family of bankers. However, subsequent investigation has suggested that His childhood was, more likely, of an ordinary, middle class variety. His parents left him to the care of various governesses and were divorced when he was sixteen.

Elmyr moved to Budapest, Hungary to study. At 18, he joined the Akademie Heinmann art school in Munich, Germany to study classical painting. In 1926 he moved to Paris, and enrolled in the Académie la Grande Chaumière, where he studied under Fernand Léger and became accustomed to fine living.

Shortly after his return to Hungary, he became involved with a British journalist and suspected spy. This friendship landed him in a Transylvanian prison for political dissidents in the Carpathian Mountains. During this time, de Hory befriended the prison camp officer by painting his portrait. Later, during the Second World War, de Hory was released.

Within a year, he was back in jail, this time imprisoned in a German concentration camp for being both a Jew and a homosexual (while his homosexuality was proven over time, investigation into his past has shown the likelihood that he was not Jewish, but instead was christened as a Calvinist). He was severely beaten and was transferred to a Berlin prison hospital, where he escaped and later slipped back into Hungary. It was there he learned that his parents had been killed and their estate confiscated. With his remaining money he bribed his way back into France, where he tried to earn his living by painting.

Upon arriving in Paris, de Hory attempted to make an honest living as an artist, but soon discovered that he had an uncanny ability to copy the works of other artists. So good were his copies that many of his friends believed them to be originals. In 1946 he sold a reproduction of a Picasso to a British friend who took it for an original. Forger Elmyr-de-hory sold his Picasso reproductions to art galleries, claiming that they were what remained of his family's estate. Galleries took the paintings and paid de Hory the equivalent of $100 to $400 per painting.

That same year de Hory formed a partnership with Jacques Chamberlin, who would later become his art dealer. They toured Europe and South America selling the forgeries until de Hory discovered that, although they were supposed to share the profits equally, Chamberlin had kept most of the money. He ended the relationship and resumed the tour alone. In 1947 de Hory visited the United States on a three-month visa and decided to stay, moving between New York City and Los Angeles.
Occasionally, throughout his career, he attempted to stop making copies and create original artwork, but could never find a market for his work, always returning to the lucrative forgery trade. He eventually expanded his forgeries to include works by Matisse, Modigliani and Renoir. Because some of the galleries de Hory had sold his forgeries to were becoming suspicious, he began to use pseudonyms, and to sell his work by mail order. Some of de Hory's many pseudonyms included Louis Cassou, Joseph Dory, Joseph Dory-Boutin, Elmyr Herzog, Elmyr Hoffman and E. Raynal.
During the 1950s, he settled in Miami, continuing to sell his work through the mail and studying the styles and techniques of other master painters in order to imitate their works. In 1955 one of his Matisse pieces was sold to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University; soon thereafter, authorities discovered it was a fake and launched an investigation.

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