Wolfgang Beltracchi, the greatest art forger

Aug 4, 2023 | Art, Environmental, Videos

Wolfgang Beltracchi is an artist, considered by many as the greatest art forger of all time. Born in West Germany in 1951, he was a skilled painter and aspiring artist from a young age. His passion for art eventually led him to start forging famous works, including those of renowned artists such as Max Ernst and Heinrich Campendonk.


Beltracchi’s forgeries were so good that they fooled experts and sold for millions of dollars. He enjoys a perverse celebrity status due to his remarkable success in the art world. His exploits have been featured in two documentaries – one made by Arte France, ‘The Forger: Wolfgang Beltracchi’ (2015), and another made in 2020 titled ‘The Art of Forgery.’


In the first documentary, Beltracchi recounts how he created convincing copies of famous works such as Max Ernst’s The Forest and Heinrich Campendonk’s Red Picture with Horses I. Beltracchi even goes into detail about his complicated process, which includes researching the artist’s original techniques, applying aged paint layers with meticulous accuracy, and then adding subtle details like fingerprints or even signs of aging.


The second documentary delves further into Beltracchis story by telling it through the eyes of those affected by his work – gallery owners who were duped, auction house experts that couldn’t tell the fakes from the real thing, victims who lost millions to these scams. Alongside this are interviews with leading art historians and forensic scientists who explain how Beltracchi managed to fool them all.

If you want to know more about the fascinating story behind this audacious master of deception we highly recommend watching either one (or both!) of Wolfgang Beltracchi’s documentaries – ‘The Forger: Wolfgang Beltracchi (2015), or ‘The Art Of Forgery’ (2020). Explore his amazing journey

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David B