ELMYR DE HORY Biography - Socialites, celebrities and People in the fashion industry


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Name: Elmyr de Hory                                                                 
Born: 1906                                                                         
Died: 11 December 1976                                                             
Elmyr de Hory (born 'Elmyr Hory') (1906 – December 11, 1976) was a famous         
Hungarian-born painter and art forger. He claimed to have sold over a thousand     
forgeries to reputable art galleries all over the world. His forgeries garnered     
much celebrity from a Clifford Irving book and from F for Fake, a documentary of   
sorts by Orson Welles, making his works popular in their own right.                 
Most of the information regarding de Hory's early life comes from what he told     
American writer Clifford Irving, who wrote the first biography about him. Since     
Elmyr's success was reliant upon his skills of deception and invention, it would   
be difficult to take the facts that he told about his own life at face value, as   
Clifford Irving himself admitted. Elmyr claimed that he was born into an           
aristocratic family, that his father was an Austro-Hungarian ambassador and that   
his mother came from a family of bankers. However, subsequent investigation has     
suggested that Elmyr's childhood was, more likely, of an ordinary, middle class     
variety. His parents left him to the care of various governesses and were           
divorced when Elmyr was sixteen.                                                   
Elmyr moved to Budapest, Hungary to study. At 18, he joined the Akademie           
Heinmann art school in Munich, Germany to study classical painting. In 1926 he     
moved to Paris, and enrolled in the Académie la Grande Chaumière, where he       
studied under Fernand Léger and became accustomed to fine living.                 
Shortly after his return to Hungary, he became involved with a British             
journalist and suspected spy. This friendship landed him in a Transylvanian         
prison for political dissidents in the Carpathian Mountains. During this time,     
de Hory befriended the prison camp officer by painting his portrait. Later,         
during the Second World War, de Hory was released.                                 
Within a year, de Hory was back in jail, this time imprisoned in a German           
concentration camp for being both a Jew and a homosexual (while his                 
homosexuality was proven over time, investigation into his past has shown the       
likelihood that Elmyr was not Jewish, but instead was christened as a Calvinist).   
He was severely beaten and was transferred to a Berlin prison hospital, where he   
escaped and later slipped back into Hungary. It was there he learned that his       
parents had been killed and their estate confiscated. With his remaining money     
de Hory bribed his way back into France, where he tried to earn his living by       
Upon arriving in Paris, de Hory attempted to make an honest living as an artist,   
but soon discovered that he had an uncanny ability to copy the works of other       
artists. So good were his copies that many of his friends believed them to be       
originals. In 1946 de Hory sold a reproduction of a Picasso to a British friend     
who took it for an original. He began to sell his Picasso reproductions to art     
galleries, claiming that they were what remained of his family's estate.           
Galleries took the paintings and paid de Hory the equivalent of $100 to $400 per   
painting. Elmyr was always unique among art forgers in that, rather than           
attempting to copy existing works by famous artists, he only painted original       
works in the style of famous artists, which made the forgeries much harder to       
That same year de Hory formed a partnership with Jacques Chamberlin, who would     
later become his art dealer. They toured Europe and South America selling the       
forgeries until de Hory discovered that, although they were supposed to share       
the profits equally, Chamberlin had kept most of the money. He ended the           
relationship and resumed the tour alone. In 1947 de Hory visited the United         
States on a three-month visa and decided to stay, moving between New York City     
and Los Angeles.                                                                   
Occasionally, throughout his career, de Hory attempted to stop making forgeries     
and create original artwork, but could never find a market for his work, always     
returning to the lucrative forgery trade. De Hory eventually expanded his           
forgeries to include works by Matisse, Modigliani and Renoir. Because some of       
the galleries de Hory had sold his forgeries to were becoming suspicious, he       
began to use pseudonyms, and to sell his work by mail order. Some of de Hory's     
many pseudonyms included Louis Cassou, Joseph Dory, Joseph Dory-Boutin, Elmyr       
Herzog, Elmyr Hoffman and E. Raynal.                                               
During the 1950s, de Hory settled in Miami, continuing to sell his forgeries       
through the mail and studying the styles and techniques of other master painters   
in order to imitate their works. In 1955 one of his Matisse forgeries was sold     
to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University; soon thereafter, authorities         
discovered it was a fake and launched an investigation.                             
In 1955 de Hory sold several forgeries to Chicago art dealer Joseph W. Faulkner,   
who later discovered they were fakes. Faulkner pressed charges against de Hory     
and initiated a federal lawsuit against him, alleging mail and telephone fraud.     
de Hory fled to Mexico City, where he was briefly jailed, suspected of the         
murder of a British man, whom de Hory claimed he had never met. When the Mexican   
police attempted to extort money from him, de Hory hired a lawyer who also         
attempted to extort money from him, by charging exorbitant legal fees. de Hory     
paid the lawyer with one of his forgeries and returned to the USA.                 
Upon his return, de Hory discovered that his paintings were fetching               
fantastically high prices at several art galleries, and was incensed that the       
galleries had only paid him a fraction of what they thought the paintings were     
worth. Further compounding de Hory's plight was that the manner of his forgeries   
had become recognizable, forcing him to sell his fake lithographs door-to-door     
to make a living. While on a trip to Washington DC, de Hory began to suffer from   
depression and attempted suicide by overdose of sleeping pills. His stomach was     
pumped, and after a stay in the hospital, de Hory recovered fully and returned     
to Miami.                                                                           
In Miami, de Hory met Fernand Legros, who would become his dealer in exchange       
for a 40% cut of the profits, with Legros assuming all the risks inherent in the   
sale of forgeries. With Legros, de Hory again toured the United States. In time,   
Legros demanded his cut be increased to 50%, when, in reality, Legros was           
already keeping much of the profit. On one of these trips Legros met Real           
Lessard, a French-Canadian, who would later become his lover. The two had a         
volatile relationship, and in 1959 de Hory decided to leave the two and return     
to Europe.                                                                         
In Paris, de Hory unexpectedly ran into Legros. de Hory revealed to him that       
some of his forgeries were still back in New York. Legros devised a plan to         
steal the paintings and sell them, making a name for himself and his art gallery   
in the process. Later that year, de Hory decided to resume his partnership with     
Legros. Legros and Lessard would continue to sell de Hory's work, and agreed to     
pay him a flat fee of $400 a month.                                                 
In 1962, de Hory moved to the Spanish island of Ibiza, while Legros and Lessard     
kept up the business of selling his paintings for large amounts of money from       
Paris. Many times they would forget to send de Hory his small monthly allowance.   
After several instances of this, Legros built de Hory a home in Ibiza to placate   
Elmyr always denied that he had ever signed any of his forgeries with the name     
of the artist whom he was imitating. This is an important legal matter, since       
painting in the style of an artist is not a crime - only signing a painting with   
another artist's name makes it a forgery. This may be true, as Legros may have     
signed the paintings with the false names.