Secrets of a master forger ... fake or fortune?

An accomplished artist who has been jailed three times for forging famous masterpieces has fooled some of the country's top experts with his work.

Max with one of his artworks. Photo: Steve Robards
Max with one of his artworks. Photo: Steve Robards

Max Brandrett - dubbed Max The Forger - has had his works sold at London’s top auction houses.

However, nowadays 70-year-old Max concentrates on producing what he calls ‘fake but legit’ works at his home in Burgess Hill.

Among his latest canvases is one in the style of the Italian artist Caravaggio and he has many others - including those in the style of Jack Vettriano and Norman Rockwell - which he plans to include in an exhibition of his works.

Artist Max Brandrett

He’s currently working on a ‘Reubens’ which he hopes to include in the exhibition with the working name of Fakes’ Progress.

“I’ve had three stretches inside for forgery,” says Max. “Now every year the Fraud Squad send me a Christmas card saying ‘wish you were here’.”

Max’s colourful fake-or-fortune career began soon after he ran off and joined the circus after growing up in a Barnado’s home.

“I was working as an elephant groom for two or three years and while I was there I did some signwriting.” It went on to lead Max to study at art school while busking to make some cash.

But his studies proved profitable, especially after he met up with the infamous gangster family, the Krays. “Charlie, Ronnie and Reggie asked me to do a smudge (painting) of a woman,” said Max.

“Ronnie said it was brilliant. He said ‘How much do you want for it? - I’ll give you two.’ I thought he meant two quid, but no it was £200.”

Now natty-dresser Max - who says he’s known as the Beau Brummell of Burgess Hill - is hoping to sell his ‘Caravaggio’ for around £2,500. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it.”

An original would fetch something like £200 million.

The most Max has ever sold a painting for was, he says, around £12,000.