Jonathan Lopez (writer)

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Jonathan Lopez is an American writer and art historian. Born in 1969 in New York City, he was educated there and at Harvard. He writes a monthly column for Art & Antiques called "Talking Pictures" and is a frequent contributor to London-based Apollo: The International Magazine of the Arts. His noted December 2007 Apollo article "Gross False Pretences" related the details of an acrimonious 1908 dispute between the art dealer Leo Nardus and the wealthy industrialist Peter Arrell Brown Widener of Philadelphia.[1] Lopez has also written for ARTnews, the Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, and the Dutch newsweekly De Groene Amsterdammer.[2] His book, The Man Who Made Vermeers is a biography of the Dutch art forger Han van Meegeren.[3]

Lopez has written extensively on Van Meegeren in both Dutch and English, including an Apollo article entitled "Han van Meegeren's Early Vermeers,"[4] which revealed that Van Meegeren was behind three Vermeer forgeries of the 1920s that had been floated on the international market by an organized ring of art swindlers based in London and Berlin. Two of the three forgeries in question were purchased by the art dealer Joseph Duveen who then sold them in good faith to the great Pittsburgh banker Andrew Mellon. At the time, Mellon was serving as secretary of the Treasury in the administration of President Calvin Coolidge. Unaware of his error, Mellon ultimately donated these two "Vermeers" as part of his founding gift to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. They hung there through the 1960s as genuine works by Johannes Vermeer, until technical analysis revealed them to be modern forgeries. These works are now kept in storage, and although rumors have existed about their true origins for many years, they have never before been traced back definitively to Van Meegeren, a figure far better known for his later exploits, which included selling a fake Vermeer to Hermann Göring at the height of World War II.[5]

The Apollo article summarizes the conventional account of Van Meegeren's career as follows: "As is fairly well known, the government of the Netherlands arrested Van Meegeren as a Nazi collaborator at the end of the Second World War, charging that he had sold a priceless Vermeer to Göring during the German occupation. When Van Meegeren revealed that he himself had painted Göring's prized masterpiece, the news made him quite popular with the general public, and his case was thereafter handled with kid gloves. He only acknowledged forging the six biblically themed Vermeers that the government already knew to be connected to him through the strawmen who had brought the works to market; two Pieter de Hoochs sold in the same manner; and a few unfinished items that remained in his atelier. Although confidential sources informed the investigative team working on the case that Van Meegeren had sold forgeries to 'Englishmen and Americans' decades before the outbreak of hostilities, the matter seems not to have received any official attention."[6]

Supporting his argument with archival documents and interviews with the descendents of Van Meegeren's partners in crime, Lopez suggests that these rumors about Van Meegeren had a strong foundation in reality and, indeed, that much of what the forger said about himself in 1945 was untruthful. Not only was Van Meegeren a professional art forger for most of his adult life, but he was also a fascist sympathizer going back as far as 1928. During the occupation, Van Meegeren had created propagandistic artworks (under his own name) at the behest of the German-installed puppet government of the Netherlands and even sent an admiring note to Adolf Hitler in 1942 as a token of esteem.[7] Koen Kleijn, the art and culture editor of De Groene, has stated that Lopez's work "shatters the popular image of Han van Meegeren as a lone gunman or picaresque rogue."[8]

Lopez lives in Manhattan with his wife, who is an art critic and professor of art history.


  1. ^ "Jonathan Lopez, "'Gross False Pretences': The Misdeeds of Art Dealer Leo Nardus," in ''Apollo: The International Magazine of the Arts'' 347 (December 2007): 76-83". 2011-03-07. Archived from the original on 2011-10-04. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  2. ^ "Jonathan Lopez, "Hitler en Van Meegeren: De meestervervalser en de fascistische droom," in ''De Groene Amsterdammer'' (September 29, 2006): 26-29". 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  3. ^ Jonathan Lopez, The Man Who Made Vermeers (New York: Harcourt, 2008). ISBN 978-0-15-101341-8.
  4. ^ "Jonathan Lopez, "Han van Meegeren's Early Vermeers," in ''Apollo: The International Magazine of the Arts'' 352 (July 2008): 22-29". Archived from the original on 2012-02-08. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  5. ^ Ibid, 22.
  6. ^ Idem.
  7. ^ "Hitler en Van Meegeren," Op. cit., 29.
  8. ^ Quoted in The Man Who Made Vermeers, Op. cit., 358.

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