French Museum Discovers Fakes in Its Collection

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Lalia Williams

A museum in Elne, France, has recently made a disturbing discovery. The institution in question had been devoted to collecting and displaying the works of French artist √Čtienne Terrus. That is, until they realized that 82 paintings out of the 140 were counterfeit.

Terrus was born in 1857 and was known for paintings of bright and upbeat landscapes, inspired by the countryside of Southern France, where he spent much of his life. He was friends with Henry Matisse, and died in 1922.

Perhaps the worst part about the discovered forgery is that, at least in some cases, it was somewhat obvious. One painting had an ink-forged signature that was easily wiped away to reveal another, and several pictured buildings that were not constructed until after Terrus himself was dead.

Luckily, most of the fakes were not on display to the public, as the museum was waiting for a second-floor renovation so that they could show their entire collection. But at least 10 or 15 of them were, and were for several years.

In an age of increasing technological advancements, it is unfortunately much easier to create forged artwork that looks more and more realistic. And especially in Europe, where the celebration of artwork is such an integral part of culture, patrons of traditional art festivals and auctions are falling victim to these plagiarizers. “Artwork” that was actually made with very little effort and money can be sold for much more

Perhaps this also shows how difficult it can be for small art-devoted establishments that receive far less income than they need to run properly. This has not only been a great blow to the museum’s reputation, but also one to the town itself.