November 17, 2016, 11:00 AM EST
West Columbia, SC, USALive Auction
Lot 53: Elmyr de Hory(69 views)
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Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000
Elmyr de Hory (Hungarian, 1906-1979)
BATEAU SUR LE LAC DANS UN PAYSAGE (manner of Pierre Auguste Renoir)
pastel, framed, bearing facsimile signature: Renoir
H14 1/2" W20 1/2"
Provenance: Bonhams-London, April 2, 1990 "Thirty Masterpieces" by Elmyr de Hory, Lot 13
South Carolina private collection
Literature: Irving, Clifford. FAKE: THE STORY OF ELMYR DE HORY, THE GREATEST ART FORGER OF OUR TIME. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969.
Other Notes: In 1952, Elmyr de Hory returned to Los Angeles after a prosperous sojourn in Dallas, Texas, managing to sell some of his stash of alleged masterpieces, including some Picasso and Matisse drawings. He had made a huge profit and was hoping he would be equally successful in Southern California. Elymr had set up an appointment with art dealer Frank Perls, owner of a well-known Beverly Hills gallery, and he planned to unload more of his artworks for another sizeable profit.
Elmyr dressed in his best suit for the occasion, carrying with him a large portfolio. At his meeting with Perls, Elmyr presented what he claimed were drawings he inherited from his family following World War II. The portfolio purportedly included sketches from Picasso, Matisse, Renoir and Modigliani.
Perls took one look at the works and was immensely impressed. After all, it's not often that one has the chance to hold great masterpieces by some of the world's most famous artists. However, the longer Perls looked at the pictures the more concerned he became. It was clear that something was wrong and Perls' worrisome expression discomforted Elymr.
According to Clifford Irving's book "Fake!" Perls questioned Elmyr about his address and other detailed personal information, causing Elmyr's nervousness to grow. Perls then calmly placed the pictures back into the portfolio, tied the strings, and then suddenly threw the mat at Elmyr. Elmyr was shocked by the unexpected action and was uncertain what to do next until Perls ordered him to get out.
Elmyr then walked out of the gallery with Perls yelling behind him. Perls observed what an untrained eye would likely never notice: these works were clearly fakes. It was also true that they were created masterfully.
To Perls' surprise, Elmyr asked, after being thrown out of the gallery, whether Perls thought the drawings were well done. According to Irving, Perls replied, "They certainly fooled me for a few minutes," before ordering the counterfeiter away again. The incident was not Elmyr's first or last time at trying to sell excellent forgeries. In fact, he had been doing it successfully for years.
Unbeknownst to Frank Perls, Elmyr had sold some forgeries to Perls' brother Klaus in New York several years earlier. Elmyr's involvement with the Perls brothers would later cause unexpected problems. In fact, one of the brothers would be directly involved in what would later be the end of Elmyr's career as a skillful art forger.
For approximately three decades Elmyr de Hory used his extraordinary talent to reproduce masterpieces from some of the world's greatest artists, including Picasso, Vlaminck, Chagall, Toulouse-Lautrec, Dufy, Derain, Matisse, Degas, Bonnard, Laurencin and Modigliani. His accuracy for detail fooled even the most skilled art connoisseurs into believing that his creations were authentic. Given their alleged provenance, Elymr sold his forgeries for high prices. Moreover, he managed to elude Interpol and the FBI for most of his criminal career.
Elmyr de Hory eventually became known worldwide as one of the most talented and greatest art forgers. Even after his death, Elmyr's works still attracted attention. Some of them even sold for the same prices as the originals. He committed suicide in 1976, and like many famous painters, he would die penniless.
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