|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data
compared to the extensive information about American artists.|
Jacques van Meegeren (26 August 1912 in Rijswijk, Netherlands – 26
October 1977 in Amsterdam), born Jacques Henri Emil van Meegeren, was a
Dutch Illustrator and painter.
He is also considered to be a forger of the work of his father Han van
Meegeren. He was, however, less gifted and his forgeries
adversely affected the reputation of his father’s work.
Jacques van Meegeren was born 26 August 1912 in the little village of
Rijswijk near The Hague, Holland, four months after the marriage of his
parents. His future life would be affected by the notoriety of his
father and the exotic descent of his mother who stemmed from an
Indonesian royal family. In 1915 his sister Inez was born.
Jacques adored his father and loved being allowed to go to his father’s
studio and help him with cleaning brushes and suchlike. When he grew
older his father took him along to art dealers and museums teaching him
how to look at and assess works of art and paintings. He soon began to
sketch and draw, indicating he had some talent for it.
Stay in Indonesia
In 1923 his parents divorced. It is not certain whether Jacques
followed his mother to Paris at that time or remained in The Hague, it
is known, however, that in 1927 he went with his mother and sister to
Sumatra. They went to live there with his mother’s family who were
directly related to the Sultan of Serdang. Jacques attended the
government HBS – a high school – in nearby Medan, traveling every day
in a little steam train. A charming incident occurred at that time.
Jacques and his mother made a visit to the Sultan of Serdang. This
Sultan had a small harem of eleven wives, the youngest of whom was very
beautiful. He introduced his nephew to this woman and instructed her to
entertain his guest as best as she could. Jacques enjoyed the most
idyllic moments with this young woman; it was an exotic way for a boy
of 16 to be initiated into the secrets of love.
Choice of a profession
In 1930, when Jacques turned 18, he came back from the East Indies. His
father was happy to see his son and took him with him to his many
friends, fellow-artists of the The Hague Art Circle, painters and
actors. They visited theatres and restaurants; for Jacques it was a
joyful introduction to the high life of The Hague where father Van
Meegeren spent his money freely.
Father van Meegeren warned Jacques not to become an artist as it was
too uncertain a profession. Jacques was sufficiently clever to attend
university and he had a talent for technical themes. He thus went to
study electrical engineering at the Sorbonne in Paris. In addition to
his studies he continued to paint and draw just as his father had done
in his youth.
From 1931 on Jacques studied in Paris. He lived in an attractive studio
on Boulevard Raspail and enjoyed an ample allowance from his father.
The following scene provides a good picture of his life:
Jacques received a letter from his cousins, the Prince Royal of Serdang
and the Prince Royal of Deli, Sumatra. They came to visit the Colonial
Exhibition in Paris that featured exotic temples and pavilions, with
the Balinese style pavilion of the Dutch East Indies being the finest
of all. The princes asked Jacques to make up their daily program.
During the day they had to pay official visits, but after these they
changed into street clothing and their jewels were hidden in the hotel
safe, but they still wore their velvet topies (Indonesian caps). In all
the Parisian nightclubs the group frequented, Jacques was seen as a
kind of leader. The most attractive Parisian and foreign “vedettes”
were nightly in their company. The famous French actress Mistinguett
was besotted with the Prince Royal of Deli and followed him everywhere.
The partying lasted a month.
Jacques kept the reputation of being an Indian prince and became popular among the female students. The good life continued.
Relationship with his father
After his studies ended, Jacques worked for a period in the electro
technical industry  but a regular lifestyle did not suit him. He
became a journalist and illustrator and worked for Parisian magazines,
but he got some kind allowance from his father as well.
Jacques paid incidental visits to his father who lived at that time in
Roquebrune, Southern France, were he prepared and created his most
notorious fake, the Supper at Emmaus, although Jacques didn’t know that at that time.
In 1938 father Van Meegeren suggested Jacques to visit the great
exhibition of Old Dutch Masters in Rotterdam and have a special look on
the newly discovered Supper at Emmaus by Vermeer. When his father asked later on what impression the picture had made on him, Jacques’ reaction was remarkable:
”It is a masterpiece of this century, certainly no Vermeer.”
”To whom do you attribute it then?”
”To you, Dad,” Jacques said. “I can see it from the long and outsized
form of the heads. The eyelids are your way of painting (...) the wine
glass and the white pitcher are also in your possession.”
His father did not speak another word and Jacques kept the secret of
his father. They didn't discuss the matter anymore until 1945, when the
fake came to light.
The 22nd September 1938 Jacques married in Paris with Lucienne Combey,
a girl from Annecy near the Swiss border. Opposition by the family –
especially by her father – was severe, but the couple persevered.
They went to live in Paris on a better address than a starting
journalist could afford but they were helped out by father Van
Meegeren, who at that time already earned much money with his forgeries.
In 1939 their daughter Michèle was born, in 1942 their daughter Chantal.
During World War II (1939–1940) the couple lived in Paris. Jacques
traveled between Paris and Holland which was remarkable in itself in
full war-time. He also had a home in Amsterdam. Around the end of the
war Lucienne went to live with her two children with her parents in
Annecy, as there was no food to left in Paris.
After the war Jacques traveled to Holland to help his father who had
been arrested for his fraud with the Supper at Emmaus and other fake
Masters. Jacques didn’t unite with his family in Annecy and had no
money to help them out. He only wrote letters with vague plans and
futile promises for money. In a sense he abandoned his family.
After a while Lucienne got tired of all vain promises and went her own
way. She, however, refused to divorce Jacques so that a peculiar
situation arose: they never lived together any more, but when Jacques
later on met another woman he couldn’t marry her because of the still
From 1946 on Jacques lived in Amsterdam in the house at the Amstel-quay
where he was registered since 1940. His father, however, didn’t need
much help; on the contrary, he helped his son to become a painter.
When Han taught his son to paint portraits, he was a stern tutor. When
Jacques had finished a portrait and a small part – for instance a hand
– was not good enough, he made him do the complete portrait again. Han
used to say: “What you have done once, you do better next time.”
Jacques became a capable portraitist and his father’s best pupil.
Jacques goal was to render the character of a model in his paintings,
also when children were concerned.
After two years waiting his father’s trial began in October 1947.
Jacques attended the trial, as well as his sister Inez. It was an
emotional experience for him. In the end his father was sentenced to
one year prison but soon after the verdict he got ill and was admitted
to a private clinic in Amsterdam. Before he could serve his term,
father van Meegeren died to the dismay of Jacques.
Jacques made a drawing of his father lying in state in his home in
Amsterdam, and attended the funeral where he delivered a brief eulogy
”Too many young artists think that skilful drawing and command of
painting techniques are no longer necessary to become an honest artist.
They would do well to take an example from my father.”
As so often happened with father Van Meegeren’s words in the past, this
statement of his son was wrongly interpreted by one of Holland’s
”Museum directors take care! The son of Han van Meegeren has said that artists today should use his father as an example.”
Jacques continued to paint and quite successful so. He got commissions
for portraits all over the country and had exhibitions in several
towns. In between he went to Paris and worked as a scenery painter with
the American Theatre and lead a bohemian life.
In 1954 he met his wife for the last time in Annecy and made a portrait
of his eldest daughter (age 15) but there followed no reconciliation.
Jacques continued to live and work in Amsterdam and met there his
second partner in life: Juliette Ledel. In 1957 he traveled with her to
Nice where he could sell his father’s villa Estate after his father’s
bankruptcy had been settled after so many years. They bought a house in
Laghet, not far from Nice, and settled there. Jacques worked as a
painter and portraitist and they both mixed with the local population
and started to play pétanque, the popular sport of Southern France.
One of the commissions Jacques obtained was the creation of a painted
War Memorial of which he was very proud. In 1959 the couple invested
all their money and energy in a private exhibition of Jacques’ work in
Nice. However, a few days before the opening of the exhibition Nice was
flooded because of a bursting water dam high in the mountains. No
public came and no publicity was obtained; Jacques suffered a mental
depression which lasted several months.
In 1962 the couple Jacques and Juliette went back to Holland without
any money left. They were lured to Amsterdam by a plan for an Hollywood
movie about Han van Meegeren. Jacques was invited to take part in it
and to consult the crew about the details of his father’s life. It was,
however, not the first plan for a movie about Van Meegeren’s life (and
it would not be the last either), but like in former cases the plan was
dropped and no movie was made. The couple was left without money. They
had a hard time, always changing their address and living in ever
Jacques was desperate for money and started to make and sell pictures
with his father’s signature which fetched far better prizes than his
own. These fakes will be discussed in the following section.
In the last year of his life he met a nurse – a Mrs. Van de Biggelaar –
who had known him as a boy. He told her the story of his life and
confessed that he had abandoned his wife and children. He also admitted
– and that is of historic importance – that he had made fake pictures
with the signature of his father.
A year later, in 1977, Jacques died, a poor and lonely man. Juliette
was no longer with him, it is not known whether she had left him, or
had died; actually very little is known of her.
His funeral was organized by a remote Indonesian cousin who happened to
live in Holland. A sad and sorry end for a man who always had suffered
from his too luxurious upbringing and never had learnt to cope with his
Fake van Meegerens
Jacques was not the only one who faked his father’s work. After Han van
Meegeren had become famous, his work rose in price and it became
worth-while to fake his paintings. Many existing mediocre paintings got
a signature “H. van Meegeren” or new pictures were made in a quasi Van
Among these fakes the imitations by Jacques are the most tricky ones as
he painted in a style that was akin to his father’s and was also able
to produce a perfect fake signature. He sometimes authenticated their
provenance by writing a certificate.
An interesting case in this respect is the collection Couto. Mr. Carlos
de Couto was the Brazilian vice-Consul in Amsterdam at the time Han van
Meegeren – and later on – Jacques lived there. He bought pictures
directly from Han van Meegeren and he also gave him a commission to
paint a portrait of his wife. These pictures were of course entirely
authentic Van Meegerens. He also bought some Van Meegerens at auctions
which might have been authentic as well.
However, later on he often lent money to Jacques van Meegeren who paid
him back in pictures by “Han van Meegeren”. There are good reasons to
assume that many of these were made by Jacques himself and signed with
an ”authentic signature”. The present owner of the collection is now
left with the question which of these pictures are authentic and which
are fakes. In the majority of the cases it is clear that the imitations
by Jacques are of a substantial lower quality.
The fake "Van Meegerens" made by Jacques and others are usually of low
quality. They are, however, not always recognized as such and have thus
adversely affected the reputation of Han van Meegeren's work.
This article is based on the following documents:
*  Frederik H. Kreuger, A New Vermeer, Publ.
Quantes Rijswijk, Holland, 2007, ISBN 978-90-5959-047-2. This is a
biography of Han van Meegeren which also describes the life of Jacques
in the chapters II to V and VIII, and his forgeries in chapter IX.
*  Lord Kilbracken, Van Meegeren: Master Forger,
Charles Scribner's, New York 1967. It describes parts of Jacques’ life,
Lord Kilbracken was a friend of Jacques.
*  Juliette Ledel, Biography of Jacques van
Meegeren, Document at the RKD, the States Institute for Art
Documentation in The Hague, Holland.
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|