Photo Gallery Interview with Forger Wolfgang Beltracchi

In one of Germany's biggest-ever art scandals, the former hippie and talented artist Wolfgang Beltracchi forged dozens of paintings over a period of 35 years, earning millions in the process. He fooled top collectors and museums, and even Steve Martin bought one of his works. Now, he's going to jail -- but first he told SPIEGEL in an exclusive interview about how he did it and why he eventually got caught.
1 / 4

In one of Germany's biggest-ever art scandals, the former hippie and talented artist Wolfgang Beltracchi forged dozens of paintings over a period of 35 years, earning millions in the process. Now, he's going to jail -- but first he told SPIEGEL in an exclusive interview about how he did it and why he eventually got caught.

Foto: Henning Kaiser/ picture alliance / dpa
2 / 4

Beltracchi was caught because of a fake Heinrich Campendonk painting titled "Red Picture with Horses." The new owners commissioned a scientific analysis. It turned out there were traces of titanium white on the canvas, a pigment that Campendonk couldn't have used because it didn't exist at the time. "I took a zinc white from a tube, a Dutch product, but unfortunately it didn’t say that it contained a small amount of titanium white," Beltracchi told SPIEGEL. "In other words, the whole thing was discovered because of an incorrectly labeled tube."

Foto: dpa Picture-Alliance / Simon Vogel/ picture alliance / dpa
3 / 4

This Cubist painting, supposedly by Fernand Léger, was also created by Beltracchi. "It was bothering me more and more to sign my paintings with someone else's signature," he said. "I didn't feel good about it anymore.

Foto: DDP
4 / 4

Beltracchi and his wife Helene are seen at their trial in Cologne in September 2011. The court sentenced the couple to prison terms of six and four years.

Foto: Henning Kaiser/ dpa
Die Wiedergabe wurde unterbrochen.