Category : Personalities

HomeArchive by Category "Personalities"
elmyr-1973-cutElmyr De Hory. The Master of Forgery

Elmyr De Hory. The Master of Forgery

Elmyr de Hory is considered by many to be the most talented and successful art forger in the world. Striving for a career as an artist, with some misfortune, he realized along the way that he had an exceptional gift for imitating the styles of the great modernist masters. However, these forgeries, which passed unnoticed for decades by many art experts, were just one more branch of a mysterious existence steeped in deception.

Early life.

After contrasting the information with research and testimonies, today it is known that Elmyr was born in 1906, as Elemér Hoffmann in Budapest, Hungary. He began his formal art training at theNagybánya Artist’s Colonyat the age of 16, and continued at the Akademie Heinmann art school in Munich. In 1926 he moved to Paris and enrolled at the Académie la Grande Chaumière, where he studied with Fernand Léger.

As for his family, Elmyr always said that his father was a Catholic christian and a diplomat, belonging to the aristocracy; but the Budapest registry list him as a Jewish handicraft merchant. He also said that the Nazis murdered his family, but according to the testimony of Mark Forgy, his personal assistant-apprentice for more than a decade in Ibiza, Elmyr was visited several times by an alleged cousin of his, who in the end turned out to be his brother. The fact that he was persecuted by Nazism, being Jewish and homosexual, was possibly the catalyst for creating false identities, and perhaps finds its origin in the need to take care of his image and obscure his trail to save his life. In any case, what is supposed to be known about his identity may still be open to another “plot twist” in the future.

Elmyr De Hory tended to create his alter ego of an aristocratic origin, who had been through recent episodes of misfortune and felt compelled to sell his possessions to finance his high standard of living. According to Elmyr, the portrait he owned of him and his brother was made by the famous Hungarian portraitist Philip de László. However, when in 2010 Mark Forgy, as the sole heir to all of Elmyr’s paintings, exhibited this same portrait the De László Trust declared that the work was certainly not painted by the esteemed portraitist, but simply another of Elmyr’s forgeries. The fact that De Hory forged a double childhood portrait of himself and his brother in sailor suits (a brother who, according to him, was no longer alive …), signed on behalf of an artist who at that time only portrayed the elite of the European plutocracy, seemed be a link to validate all the lies about his origin.

By the time the young Elemér finished his art studies in 1928, his style of figurative painting became obsolete as new avant-garde trends emerged such as Fauvism, Expressionism and Cubism. This harsh reality and the economic shockwaves of the Great Depression clouded any prospect that he could make a living from his art.

Elemér Hoffmann, 1937

Police files in Geneva, Switzerland, indicate misdemeanor charges and arrests between the late 1920s and the 1930s. During this period, he was convicted ten times in five European cities for crimes including check fraud, document forgery and false claim to an aristocratic title. This indicates that his skill at artifice had its origin in financial fraud, probably driven by an inability to live within his lifestyle of high means.

At the outbreak of World War II, de Hory returned to Hungary. He soon ended up in a Transylvanian prison in the Carpathians for political dissidents; due to having been involved with a British journalist and suspected spy. Although he was later released during the war, only a year later, it is assumed that he ended up in a German concentration camp for being Jewish and homosexual. However, this story has never been confirmed. Edith Tenner, the widow of Elmyr’s maternal cousin and his only surviving relative, suggested that the forger may have spent the war in Spain. Other close sources say that he escaped from the hospital of a German prison and then later emigrated to Hungary.

The bon vivant forger.

Arriving in Paris after the war, once again De Hory had initially little success in making a living from his art. Instead, he realized his astonishing talent for copying styles from prominent painters. His career is supposed to have started when he managed to sell a pen and ink drawing to a British woman as an original Picasso. Having lived through repeated unsuccessful attempts to ignite his own career, Elmyr focused on his talent for imitation, selling his replicas to renowned galleries in Paris pretending to be the displaced Hungarian aristocrat selling his family’s art collection.

Elmyr l’aristocrate

For a time, he focused on counterfeiting works on paper, as the correct paper was easier to obtain and these works could go unnoticed more easily since many of the artists he forged, such as Picasso and Matisse, were still alive and they could realize a new painting on canvas. This “flying under the radar” technique of doing only minor works even led him to produce fake lithographs.

De Hory avoided using any type of pigment on paper until 1949, when he began adding gouache and watercolor to his ink drawings; solving the added complication of color with bulb-assisted drying and aging the paper with some tea brushing.

When producing works on canvas, Elmyr used to buy 19th century works at flea markets and scrape them, aware of how forensic examinations of the mediums were produced. To artificially age the works, he used two widely available commercial varnishes: Vernis à craqueleur, a varnish that produced rapid cracking, and Vernis à vieillir, which imparts a tinge of golden aging.

In 1947 Elmyr moved to New York. Later that year, he was able to find a correct stretcher on a vintage canvas, tested his first Modigliani painting, and baked it in the oven to dry the oil paint. Even so, the oil took two months to dry, but the resulting one was easily sold to the Niveau Gallery in New York. Soon after, he would expand his repertoire of forgeries to include works by Matisse and Renoir as well, but throughout his career he concentrated largely on Modigliani – since he was an artist with a very short life, his works rare and object of desire by many. From that point, Elmyr began to create an illusory world around himself that gave his art and himself the appearance of authenticity. This brought him friends, clients, and acceptance. To avoid suspicion, he had started signing the works under many pseudonyms: Joseph Dory, Joseph Dory-Boutin, Louis Cassou, Elmyr Herzog, Elmyr Hoffman, and E. Raynal are some of them.

Elmyr De Hory in studio, 1961

In 1960, De Hory struck a trade deal with two art dealers, Fernand Legros and Real Lessard, who devised many of the most brilliant and insidious tactics to corrupt the epistemological mechanisms that govern the art market.

Above all, Legros and Lessard recognized the importance of hiring art experts who could “guarantee” the authenticity of works. They knew who to bribe and who to cheat. At some point, they even managed to convince the artist Kees van Dongen that he himself had painted a work by Elmyr De Hory. By holding an exhibition on Raoul Dufy, they made sure to mix authentic works with those made by Elmyr. They put forgeries up for auction and then bought them back, giving the paintings the authority of having previously been publicly sold. To ensure a supply of reliable precedents they had stamps copied and produced their own documents. They did the same with the customs stamps, which facilitated transport and in turn provided an artificial provenance. They bought prewar monographs because the plates were easy to replace with a photographic copy of a De Hory forgery.

Few events in the art world confer as much status as the inclusion of an painting in a book, as it signals an almost unquestionable authenticity and elite status. Both the dealership duo and Elmyr understood how to exploit the weak points in the system. During the 1950s and 1960s, De Hory is believed to have forged more than a thousand works by great artists that were sold across five continents. Many have been removed from museums. Others, some experts say, have not been and perhaps never will be. De Hory created so many forgeries of Amedeo Modigliani that it has become impossible to compile a definitive catalog of the artist’s original work, according to Kenneth Wayne, director of The Modigliani Project.

However, no new forensic techniques for analyzing pigments were anticipated by Elmyr nor the dealers. Most likely, this was due to a lack of knowledge about the history of the paintings, as it relates to their composition, and therefore the inability to anticipate that new forensic techniques such as X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectrometry would unveil their scam. These technologies can quickly determine elemental and molecular compositions and identify materials that shed light on a production date which was later than the painting claims to be, and in this last and crucial respect, De Hory’s artifice could be exposed.

In 1964, many experts and art galleries became suspicious of these works, when Legros sold 56 fakes to Texas oil millionaire Algur Meadows, who discovered the fraud and alerted Interpol, exposing De Hory as the artist behind the works. . The police were soon on the trail of Legros and Lessard. Legros sent De Hory to Australia for a year to keep him out of the eye of the investigation.

Life in Ibiza.

De Hory, center the life and soul of the Ibiza parties.

Most of the works he painted would be done in Ibiza in the 1960s, where he had a hidden studio his villa, named La Falaise. His life was relatively quiet, until the plot was uncovered. Fleeing justice, he soon had Legros co-inhabiting the villa, who claimed ownership and threatened to evict De Hory from La Falaise. Living with Legros was increasingly difficult, so De Hory decided to leave Ibiza. Legros and Lessard were arrested shortly thereafter and jailed on charges of various check frauds.

Tired of eluding Interpol for some time, Elmyr decided to return to Ibiza and accept his fate. It was not until August 1968 that a court convicted him, and solely for crimes of homosexuality, without being able to show any visible supporting evidence and be able to associate him with the Legros and Lessard frauds; sentencing him to only two months in prison and one year of expulsion from the island. During that period he resided in Torremolinos, Malaga.

A year after his release, Elmyr De Hory, who by then was a celebrity, returned to Ibiza. Soon after, she told his story to the writer Clifford Irving, who wrote his biography with the title: Fake! The story of Elmyr de Hory, the greatest art forger of our time, who he turned into an international bestseller. Irving himself was later convicted of another fraudulent biography of Howard Hughes, the famous aviator mogul. Shortly before, Irving and De Hory participated in Orson Welles’ documentary F for Fake (1973), which closely portrays this duo of counterfeiters and their abstract circumstances. In the documentary, De Hory questioned that his forgeries were inferior to the original paintings, mainly because they had gone unnoticed by the “reputed” expert class and were appreciated when believed to be genuine. In F for Fake, Welles also raises questions about the intrinsic nature of the creative process and how deception, illusion, or outright fraud can often prevail in the art world; in some respects, minimizing the guilt of the art forger and the outliers around him.

In 1969 a series of recent scandals had connected Elmyr De Hory to forgeries in the United States and France. However, in Spain he was still safe from the consequences. So he embraced his new personality: the great forger who had deceived the art world.

In the early 1970s, de Elmyr decided to try his hand at painting again, but this time he would sell his own original work. Although he had gained some fame in the art world, he made little profit and soon learned that the French authorities were trying to extradite him to stand trial on fraud charges. By rule this took a long time, as Spain was going through its last years of the dictatorship and did not have any extradition treaties with France yet.

On December 11, 1976, Mark Forgy, Elmyr’s assistant and partner, informed him that the Spanish and French governments had reached an agreement to extradite him. Soon after, de Hory took an overdose of sleeping pills and asked Forgy not to intervene or stop him from taking his own life. However, Forgy later went for help to take De Hory to a local hospital, though along the way he died in Forgy’s arms. Later that year, Clifford Irving had expressed doubts about Elmyr’s suicide, claiming that he may have faked his own death to escape extradition, but Forgy had dismissed this claim.

Throughout his 30-year career, Elmyr de Hory inserted more than 1000 forgeries into the art market, many of these works still residing unexposed in museums and private collections today. Living a life that can be seen as one of the greatest works of conceptual art of the 20th century, which in turn meant a deep critique of the art market. The only thing you can be sure of from this phony master is the uncertainty of the legend that surrounds him and the extent of his charade.


Martinique, E. (2019). Elmyr de Hory – The Story of the Most Famous Forger in Art History. Online Art Blog: Widewalls

Taylor, J. (2014). The Artifice de Elmyr De Hory. Online Blog: Intend to Deceive, Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World

Hillstrom Museum of Art (2020). The Secret World of the Art Forger Elmyr De Hory: His Portraiture on Ibiza. USA: Gustavus Adolphus College

Forgy, M. (2012). The Forger’s Apprentice: Life with the World’s Most Notorious Artist. CreateSpace. Print.

Rød, J. (2010). Fake Fakes in the Forger’sOeuvre. Online Blog: Elmyr de Hory: The Official Website by Mark Forgy

It is possible that the pictures and the content reaches us through different channels and is sometimes difficult to know the author or the original source of the content. Whenever possible we added the author. If you are the author of any content (image, video, photography, text, etc.) and do not appear properly credited, please contact us and we will name you as an author. If you show up in a picture and think it impugns the honor or privacy of someone we can tell us and it will be withdrawn.

Kelosa Blog editors are not responsible for the opinions or comments made by others, these being the sole responsibility of their authors. Although your comment immediately appears in Kelosa Blog we reserve the right to delete (in case of using swear words, insults or disrespect of any kind) and editing (to make it more readable) or undermines the integrity of the site

Hausmann Portrait - 1933-36-minRaoul Hausmann and his refuge in Ibiza

Raoul Hausmann and his refuge in Ibiza

Raoul Hausmann was born in Vienna in 1886, as the son of an academic painter. In 1900, the whole family had moved to Berlin, where the young artist met the influences of Cubism, Expressionism and Futurism before becoming one of the founders of the Dada movement in Berlin in 1918. Two years earlier, Dadaism emerged in Zurich as a reaction to the World War I, and an iconoclastic questioning of the forms and objectives of art. However, the Berlin version of the movement adopted a more political stance: under the pseudonym Der Dadasophe, Hausmann played an important role, performing mostly institutional criticism in Germany during the years between the two world wars, until he started being persecuted by the Nazi regime.

As he didn’t find the answers in fine arts and particularly in painting he was aiming for, Hausmann was possibly the inventor of photomontage, which consists of combining, without a defined plan, cuts of photography, newspapers and drawings to obtain a plastically new work that would assume a political, moral or poetic message. It emerges as a kind of ‘visual anarchy’ (visueller Anarchie), to become later an extended form of modern art. Besides the important contribution of photomontage, Raoul Hausmann is also known for being a pioneer of phonetic poetry, an experimentalist form that avoids using the word as a mere or as the only vehicle of meaning. One of his most famous poems, Fmsbw, profoundly influenced the work of the important dadaist Kurt Schwitters.

[caption id="attachment_4576" align="aligncenter" width="768"]raoul hausmann der dadasophe in Berlin Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Hoch, 1st International Dada Convention (Berlin, 1920)[/caption]

Dadaism emerges in 1916, in the middle of the world war, with the intention of destroying all pre-established codes in the art world. It is considered an anti-artistic, antiliterary and antipoetic movement, since it questions the very existence of art, literature and poetry with their respective norms. From the beginning, this movement presents not only a rejection of any tradition or scheme prior to it, but became a way of living.

The movement was born at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, when the Swiss city had become a refuge for migrants from all over Europe who were escaping the war and where representatives of various schools such as German Expressionism, Italian Futurism and French Cubism met. Dadaism has the particularity of not being a movement of rebellion against a previous school, but questioning the concept of art in its entirety. For the first time in history, chaos, chance or the imperfect were defined as beauty, establishing themselves as central elements within their movement. With marked tendencies towards shocking and destruction as the main objective … in fact, nothing made a Dadaist happier than to scandalize a bourgeois.

[gallery columns="2" link="none" size="full" ids="4598,4597"]

Left:  “ABCD”, Raoul Hausmann (1923). Right: “The Spirit of Our Time – Mechanical Head”, Raoul Hausmann. (1919)

Dada is anti-everything. Anti-art, anti-literature, anti-dada even … its name was chosen randomly, this being a main feature of the movement; as well as freedom, the destruction of norms and canons. Dadaism set a very important precedent for contemporary art, since it contradicts previously irremovable concepts such as eternal beauty, the eternity of principles, the laws of logic and the immobility of thought. The Dadaists, on the other hand, promoted spontaneity, the freedom of the individual, the immediate, the random, the contradiction, defended chaos against order and imperfection against perfection.

Refuge in Ibiza.

Raoul Hausmann landed in Ibiza between 1933 and 1936, fleeing from Germany due to appearing on the list of “degenerate artists”, compiled by the Nazi regime. He arrived accompanied by his wife, Hedwig Mankiewitz, and Vera Broïdo, his lover, both Jews like him.

During his stay, Hausmann explored the most characteristic corners of the island. The simplicity, the morphology of its landscapes, the archaic customs of its inhabitants and its architecture quickly subjugated the artist. Thrilled by the material and cultural purity of the place, he focused mainly on any reference to anything that was intact or that had not undergone any post-industrial alteration.

Finca around Sant Josep, Ibiza (1934)

He discovered the importance of material culture in the rural architecture of Ibiza; which impregnated the exhaustive analysis that he made of these constructions and the morphology of the landscapes. Hausmann admired the sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency embodied in these peasant homes. He also admired the singular simplicity, the nobility and purity of its architectural forms, created exclusively to respond to the needs of man; an “architecture without architects” in which he observed something primitive as well as contemporary, with clear geometries and controlled proportions.

Hausmann began writing anthropological and historical essays about the island, and his images were published in various magazines. His drawings, collected in diaries and notebooks, provide a unique insight at the origins of the constructive reason and the materials of the ancient houses. He made these houses one of the main reasons for his photographs as well as the inhabitants of Ibiza. Hausmann had a special sensitivity for photography, with the intention of projecting small but intense experiences from which one could extract particular appreciation.

Photos and Notebook (R. Hausmann): Finca Can Mestre / Can Palerm.

His statements are represented on hundreds of typed pages and almost five hundred photographic negatives, as well as a book published by the artist called Hyle. The legacy of the artist illustrates the “virgin” Ibizan landscape, which sustained an isolated and archaic local culture. Both constituted the perfect stage for the experimentation and artistic development of Raoul; a harmonized environment, the result of the respectful material interaction of farmers who used natural resources only to respond to their primary needs, where technical limitations and natural supply conditioned the results.

These works would be complemented with Hausmann’s research tasks, identifying links between the architecture of Ibiza with references in other Mediterranean constructions and cultures; a fact that would also captivate later scholars, such as Rolph Blakstad from around the 1950s.

When the Spanish Civil War began, Hausmann joined the republican side and even managed to organize an international anti-Franco committee in Ibiza. But when the island fell into the hands of the Fascists, he was forced to abandon it and continue his exile in Switzerland. The following years were described as a bitter exile, during which his work was dispersed or destroyed. After finishing the Second World War in Europe, Hausmann settled in Limoges, France. There he continued his artistic production of which among others he resumed painting once again, which he had left aside for so many years, and, according to local witnesses, he lived a fairly lonely life until his death in 1971.

Left: Raoul Hausmann, L’homme qui a peur des bombes (The Man who is Afraid of Bombs) (Film. 1957) / Right: Raoul Hausmann, Dada Raoul, (1951)

Hausmann was known to be a rebel throughout his life. He never took anything for granted and always fought against all kinds of certainties that he considered unjustified. His life was a continuous struggle to counteract the authoritarianism and German fanaticism of the time. In this light, he always maintained a Dadaist stance faithful to contradiction. He profoundly questioned the state of the society and the so-called progress, at a time when it was considered purely beneficial; a general doctrine that later contributed to the disasters of two world wars.

After settling down in Ibiza, however, Hausmann admired an archaic culture and way of life and a handcrafted utilitarian architecture. His studies of the Ibizan fincas, which were the result of many cultural influences (Phoenician, Egyptian, Roman, Arabic), were intended to demonstrate that: – “the idea of a single origin was a fiction, and that the so-called ‘purity’ of a people or culture didn’t exist”. His portraits of the peasants of the island differ drastically from the ‘racial’ portraits so practiced at that time. Halfway between study and poetry, he described those dignified subjects as “fierce and freedom-loving”, and he liked to portray them in photographs outside of their usual context.

Photo: Raoul Hausmann

One can argue that both the depth of Hausmann’s thinking and the extent of his centers of interest, as a writer, poet or as a photographer, are still undervalued nowadays. Reluctant to great artifices or effects in his photography, but remarkable how this simplicity of his images is at the same time modest while very real and powerful. In this article it is only possible to show a part of the work and creativity of this extraordinary artist, encouraging the reader with interest to look more deeply into further of Raoul Hausmann’s work.

To end with, a characteristic example of the Dadaist movement, the phonetic poetry:

The Great War in a Nutshell (excerpt from a lecture on the artistic movement of Dadaism and its historical context.) The soundtrack is compiled from Futurist and Dadaist music and poems from the 1910s and 1920s as Kurt Switters , FT Marinetti and Raoul Hausmann.)


Crespo MacLennan, G. (2017). Raoul Hausmann: fotógrafo en Ibiza. Diario: El País.

Teixeira, C. (2018). La Ibiza Inédita de Raoul Hausmann. Blog online: Leer y tejer.

Plataforma ArteEspaña. Entrada: Definición del Dadaísmo. (2005). Enciclopedia del Arte (online).

Le Musee Rochechouart (2018). Entrada: The Raoul Hausmann Resource Library. Chateau de Rochechouart.


It is possible that the pictures and the content reaches us through different channels and is sometimes difficult to know the author or the original source of the content. Whenever possible we added the author. If you are the author of any content (image, video, photography, text, etc.) and do not appear properly credited, please contact us and we will name you as an author. If you show up in a picture and think it impugns the honor or privacy of someone we can tell us and it will be withdrawn.

Kelosa Blog editors are not responsible for the opinions or comments made by others, these being the sole responsibility of their authors. Although your comment immediately appears in Kelosa Blog we reserve the right to delete (in case of using swear words, insults or disrespect of any kind) and editing (to make it more readable) or undermines the integrity of the site