The Observer in London has a story about the discovery of a large group of forgeries, some of which went through auction houses, all painted by a German artist over the past 15 years. Police have arrested “Wolfgang Beltracchi, 59, an artist from Freiburg, aided by his wife, Helene, 52, and her sister, Susanne, 57 – women described as “great charmers”. All three are now in police custody.” The Observer says that the forgeries were discovered by Nicholas Eastaugh of Art Access and Research who tested three of the paintings and found they contained pigments not available at the beginning of the century:
More than 30 paintings, thought to be by artists including Max Ernst, Raoul Dufy and Fernand Léger, have been unmasked as forgeries, the Observer has learned. The fakes have duped leading figures in the art world into parting with at least £30m.
Four of the paintings have gone through Christie’s, including forgeries of Ernst’s La Horde, estimated at £3.5m and eventually sold to the Würth Collection, and André Derain’s Bateaux à Collioure, sold for £2m. Six paintings were sold by the leading German auctioneer, Lempertz, one for £2.8m. The forger’s strategy appears to have been to create compositions that would relate to the titles of documented works whose whereabouts are not currently known. […]
Christie’s London – which handled alleged forgeries that include Campendonk’s Girl with a Swan, sold for £67,000, and another painting that fetched £344,000 – said: “We take any doubt surrounding authenticity extremely seriously and are investigating the matter fully.”