Juan Gris Musician's Table, 1926
The crime: In 1986 John created
a painting for Drewe in the style of Cubist painter Albert Gleizes.
Drewe called Myatt to tell him Christie’s had valued the piece
“The crime was committed at the point
I expressed an interest”
A week later John received 50 per cent of the
money in a brown envelope with no questions asked. Solving all John’s
financial woes in one sweep – he gradually got drawn into
Drewe’s web of deceit and went on to paint 200 fakes from
art history’s long line of masters.
John’s materials were unorthodox, he used
everything including household emulsion mixed with KY jelly. But
a relentless treadmill of trickery by Drewe, saw John being paid
little more than his £13,000 teaching salary, with Drewe keeping
the lion’s share. In 1993 John finally put a stop to the fraud,
but the long arm of the law caught up with John in 1995 when Drewe’s
ex-partner ‘blew the whistle’.
John assisted at every step of the four year investigation
and was eventually handed a lenient twelve month sentence and released
from Brixton Prison after four months for good behaviour.
After his release, John swore he would never paint again, but Searle
- the Scotland Yard detective who arrested him and now a close friend
- commissioned a family portrait and convinced him to return to
In 2005 his first originals exhibition in London
was a complete sell out and was opened by Anne Robinson and Magnus
Magnusson. Happily married to his second wife Rosemary since 2001,
with five grown up children between them, he is a committed Christian
and plays the organ in his local church every Sunday. This story
really does have a happy ending.
Described by Scotland Yard as “the biggest art fraud
of the 20th century”, the life of artist John Myatt reads
very much like the pages of a best-selling novel.
Success arrived for John in the Seventies, when
he co-wrote the number one chart hit ‘Silly Games’
in 1979. Moving from London to his native Staffordshire, John’s
life took a down turn when his wife walked out, leaving him with
their two tiny children to care for. John knew he had to find an
alternative to his poorly paid job as an art teacher and generate
an income from home, so he could be close to his children.
John discovered his talent for mimicry early as
an artist and in 1983 placed a classified advert in Private Eye
offering ‘Genuine Fakes for £150 and £200’
– from which a legitimate business was born. A call from ‘Professor
Drewe’, who claimed to be a nuclear physicist, resulted
in John producing 14 paintings over the next two years – generating
some much needed cash and the veneer of a business friendship.