Guy Ribes has the talent of the greatest painters the world has ever known and you’ve probably seen his work without really knowing it. That’s because Ribes spent 30 years of his life creating fakes. He never copied a painting though. Instead, he would create a new work in the style of a particular painter and with the help of dealers, he would be able to sell it for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Eventually his lies would catch up with him and his downfall was as spectacular as his work was.

If there’s one thing to learn from A French Forger, it’s that Ribes should have been signing his own name on all his works. Of course, that would never get him the kind of money he was interested in making. It also wouldn’t have been as fun for Ribes.

It’s equal parts funny and sad to hear Ribes’ story. His talent is unmistakable. Trying to tell his work from the original painter he is copying is incredibly hard to do. The only way to really do it is to look at the painting through testing. It’s here where the true age of the work is determined and how someone can find out that it wasn’t made when they believed it was. That’s what is so sad about A French Forger though. Instead of using his talent to make a name for himself, Ribes was more interested in making money while also making a fool out of people who believed his work was real.

Ribes does seem to find the most pleasure in fooling people, which makes listening to him speak about his life fun and exciting, but also something that you can never be sure is truthful. He spent 30 years faking the great artists. Who can say he isn’t faking parts of his life as well. He does tell a wonderful story though, so listening to it is never boring. Viewers also watch as Ribes explains how he works while painting something new. He’s forced to destroy them in the end, or he’ll give them as a gift to someone after, but his days of selling them are certainly over.

The strange part of A French Forger is trying to determine just how terrible what Ribes had been doing was. He’s not directly copying a work of art, simply mimicking the style of the painter. He also claims that he never directly sold the paintings. He simply supplied them and was given his cut at the end. He’s also quick to point out that the buyers are just as bad as he is, essentially ripping him off with the price they pay if the painting had been real. Somehow he justifies his work this way, as if it’s a mutual scam from both parties. No matter what you think of what he did, it’s impossible to say he isn’t talented and watching him work is a pleasure.