The student often begins where the teacher left off. In
the world of art, students, as well as forgers, study
techniques, color, brushstrokes, and compositions of
acclaimed artists. Eventually some are capable of
duplicating and even surpassing the old masterís abilities.
I became a friend of an artist whose forgeries have been
authenicated and are displayed in museums and private
collections. I learned from him, and at times I helped him
in his endeavors.
At the beginning of World War II, the American Military
Engineers and the Civil Defense assigned me to study
emergency evacuation procedures for Long Island residents..
Chaos would result if bridges or tunnels were incapacitated.
I surveyed the possible confiscation of private boats, to
evacuate people from Long Islandís north shore, across Long
Island Sound to Connecticut. Residents of south shore
communities would be taken by boat to New Jersey. I contacted
marinas, yacht clubs and yachtsmen to develop an inventory
of local boats, and their passenger carrying capabilities.
I was informed that I could obtain information from Vic, a
prominent Kings Point yachtsman.
Initially, I met Vic because of his involvement with the
yachting clubs, including his fame as the president of the
International Multihulled Boat Racing Association. He gave
painting lessons on Tuesday evenings to a select group of
north shore residents. His class consisted of eight to ten
well-to-do men and women They all knew and respected him,
and they each paid him twenty-five dollars per session. One
Saturday morning when I visited him, I saw expensive cars,
some chauffeured, bringing children to his home. Saturday
mornings, from nine to eleven, he gave art lessons for
twelve to fifteen children. Vic received ten dollars for
each student when they were picked up after class. This was
during an era when a worker earned and supported a family on
less than one hundred dollars a week. Vic sold rare paintings
and works of art that he had discovered. He was often
commissioned to find valuable art for wealthy clients. He
was successful in discovering lost art masterpieces. He
found unknown paintings of great masters that were authenticated
by experts, and sold to museums and private art collectors.
Vic was a White Russian who had studied naval architecture
as well as art and flew as a pilot for the Imperial Russian
Airforce during the early part of World War I. When the
Czar was eliminated, and the Communists gained control, Vic
fled to France. He mingled with artists, including Picasso
and Dali, and the Bohemian intelligentsia, before coming to
the United States. While he lived in France, he became
acquainted with art dealers, museums, and art experts.
During my first visit, I admired some paintings in his home.
He said that he did some painting, and some of them were his.
I mentioned that I also painted in various media. That was
the beginning of a friendship and unusual educational
experience. Through Vic I met many unusual individuals:
Sikorsky, the helicopter inventor, Kardvelli, Vice President
of Republic Aviation and airplane designer, and Salvatore
Dali. Vic asked me to show him some of my art. I proudly
brought my best oils and water colors, including one that
won a blue ribbon.. He looked at them and said, "Some are OK.
But your drawing of water stinks." He shook his head saying,
"You have some ability but no real technique." His eyes
studied me as he asked, "Do you want to learn to paint like
an artist? I can teach you." Despite my deflated ego and
initial surge of anger at his blunt opinion, I nodded
acceptance to his offer. That was the beginning of
developing one facet of my life with its varied careers and
The art education I received could not be found in any
college or art school. Decades later, I obtained an
auxiliary license to teach art. I taught art in the
evenings for a few years in schools and colleges. I
occasionally worked on commission on Saturdays at Yves
Chavence Galleries on Madison Avenue. I learned it was
easy to concoct fictitious and desirable qualities for a
poor painting. Despite a paintings non-existent merits,
patrons listened to me, and purchased art that I had
For many years, when I had a free Tuesday evening, I
attended Vicís art classes. He refused to take any money
from me. In time I found ways to help him with his work
Sometimes I watched him make art forgeries. Vic had mastered
the styles of many great artists. He taught me painting
techniques with oils, water color, pastels and with other
media. I had the advantage of private tutoring, which I
repaid by assisting him. As he taught me art I also learned
how forgeries were successfully made and sold as authentic
works of old masters.
We looked for old paintings by unimportant or little known
artists. The date that the painting was made was important.
Galleries and private collections were scanned to purchase
paintings made by unknown or little known artists of
certain periods. It was important to have old canvas and
frames, with their original nails or fastenings to
establish authenticity. Paintings of different periods
were labeled and stored awaiting their rebirth as a forgery.
Many old paintings had coats of varnish over the oil paints.
This was carefully removed, layer by layer, until the original
oil paints were exposed. I helped scrape and separate
various colors of paints from the paintings. The separated
colors were ground by hand in a mortar and pestle. Ocher,
sienna, and earth pigments were purchased from areas where
the masters had obtained their pigments. Paints with modern
thinners, namely petroleum and synthetic solvents, or colors,
like titanium white, which were unknown in the old days, was
not used in the forgeries. They were too easily detected.
There were numerous other procedures to mix pigments of
different particle size. Modern oils and paints have
uniform particle size. The old masterís pigments for colors
were usually hand ground, and the particle size in the colors
varied. Lead white, zinc white, and bone white were typical
white oil paints used in the old days. Tung, linseed, and
other oils or solvents available for use in a specific era
were used in forgeries.
The artists fingerprints are often found on the paintings.
Some left their prints while they were handling their wet,
or partially dried, oil paintings Some artists used their
fingers to spread or texture the paintings, thereby leaving
prints. Many of these prints had been lifted off the oil
paintings of masters. To make a three dimensional
fingerprint stamp, a wad of clay or similar impressionable
substances is pressed against the fingerprints on the oil
paintings. The impressionable material for the fingerprint
stamp is hardened and transferred by pressing against the
wet oil paint of a forgery.
Book stores and libraries were searched for old books of
particular publication years. The books contents were of
no importance. Of importance were the fly-leaf pages in
the front and back of the book. They supplied the paper for
water color or pastel forgeries. Water colors made during
that time span are still found on the shelves or in the
stock rooms of artist supply stores. Distilled water was
primarily used with water color forgeries. Chlorinated or
fluoride treated water was unknown in the nineteenth century
and earlier. Many artist were prolific with water colors.
Many were drawn as experiments or used as random studies. .
For example, Winslow Homer had periods where he lived, as
in Maine, Cape Cod, or the Caribbean, where he painted local
subjects. It was easier to sell and authenticate a forgery,
if the subject matter or scene, and the paper and colors
were typical of the famous water color artist. Pen and ink
forgeries were easy to forge but were not as profitable as
oil or water color forgeries.
I was privileged to be included in some of Vicís parties
and meetings with Salvador Dali, and other luminaries of
the art world. At times they spoke about and joked about
some of the good, as well as the inept artists that found
fame and fortune in the opinionated art world. Picasso,
often referred to as Pissass, was admired for the way he
had manipulated art communities and experts with his self
imposed grandeur, and they spread his fame throughout the
world. They had contempt for Jackson Pollack, the Drunken
Dribbler,. his shocking gimmicky art, but they admired his
ability to become rich and famous by convincing his
followers of his genius. They ridiculed the publicís
gullibility in accepting Campbell Soup Painter, Andy Warhol
as a great artist. They had opinions and discussions about
painting as a career, as well as the prostitution and
misdirection of art by critics and experts.
I was impressed with the genius and personality of Dali.
Privately, Vic said that Dali was the finest art technician,
past or present. I recall Daliís description of the years
he struggled unrecognized. He realized that that the public
was influenced by parasitic critics and experts, frustrated
individuals that did not possess personal artistic abilities.
They made their careers and living by criticizing or
acclaiming artists. Their vociferous opinions often became
the criteria of acceptable great art, which the masses of
asses accepted as truth.
Dali was a struggling artist until he realized that the
new surreal art movement paid excellent financial returns
to many incompetent artists who concocted, often grotesque,
works of art. He made and entered a surrealistic drawing
for an exhibit. Subject matter was often a conjecture or
concocted opinion of judges whose decisions influenced the
art world and art buyers. Daliís suburb brushwork and
technique was outstanding in the field of mostly groping
individuals who thought that they were artists. He was
proclaimed a great surrealist by the judges and critics.
After that exhibit, he was on the road to fame and fortune.
He was a master who learned to manipulate the critics and
the public. He was his own best salesman. He brandished
his long curved mustache and mysterious airs made him rich
The production and sale of water color forgeries to the
gullible public is written in the vignette, Artbait by