Watch CBS News

Art forger's secret: "Channeling" dead artists

Convicted art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi imagined that the ghosts of artists past stood over his shoulder and spoke to him as he forged their works
Art forger's secret: "Channeling" dead artists 05:22

How was convicted art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi able to pass off his paintings as the work of history's most celebrated artists, such as Fernand Leger and Max Ernst? By channeling the spirit of the dead artist whose work he forged.

"What he was doing was a very, very complicated business mentally," Simon told 60 Minutes Overtime. "He was a brilliant actor in that he could impersonate an artist and then do the painting."

Beltracchi told Simon he even imagined he was speaking with the ghosts of great artists past as he forged their work.

"Sometimes when I was painting...I have had really an impression they're looking over my shoulder," Beltracchi told Simon. "Max Ernst was little bit angry, I think."

But it wasn't the act of forgery that angered the ghost of Ernst, says Beltracchi. The forger imagined Ernst as a jealous ghost, made angry by witnessing a talent that surpassed his own. And, certainly, Beltracchi is talented: No one can deny his talent in the art of fooling art collectors, museums, and galleries for almost 40 years.

Editor's Note: This segment was originally published Feb. 23, 2014


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.