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 at £25K.

The crime was committed at the point I expressed an interest
John Myatt

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 his easel.

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.

 

The life

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.