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The Great Canadian Art Fraud Case

The Great Canadian Art Fraud Case

176 pages
Published:   October 18, 2022
Non-Fiction  /  Art & Architecture
Hardcover:   9781773102535    $47.50

In May 2016, Jon S. Dellandrea came into possession of a box of the last effects of an obscure artist, William Firth MacGregor. The contents of the box chronicled a major, and long forgotten, trial involving forgeries of the art of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.

The Great Canadian Art Fraud Case takes readers back to 1962, a time when forgeries were turning up on gallery walls, in auction houses, and (unwittingly) being hung in the homes of luminaries across Canada. Inspector James Erskine, enlisting the help of A.J. Casson, the youngest living member of the Group of Seven, set out to discover where the forgeries were coming from. Fifty years later, Dellandrea follows Erskine’s hunt to the end, uncovering the masterminds behind the forgeries.

Lavishly illustrated with reproductions and archival images, The Great Canadian Art Fraud Case unravels the mystery of the greatest art fraud trial in Canadian history. Along the way, it also tells the story of a talented artist whose career might have been so very different.
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Jon S. Dellandrea is a Canadian educator and author. He is a senior fellow at Massey College, chair emeritus of the Art Canada Institute, and a Member of the Order of Canada. His articles on fakes and forgeries in Canadian art have appeared in the Literary Review of Canada and Canada’s History.


“True crime meets high art in Jon S. Dellandrea’s riveting and essential investigation into a national ‘art-history-mystery.’ This daring book shows how the Canadian art market and its insidious twin, the black market in fakes and forgeries, grew up together and remain connected. Dellandrea masterfully lights up the pixels of Canadian history to reveal an exciting and uncomfortable image hidden within our country’s cultural mythology. You have to read this story to believe it.” — Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art

“Jon S. Dellandrea has given us a lively account of his adventures in the art world, as he tracks down the story of a major forgery racket in 1960s Toronto. I was fascinated by his gallery of gifted artists, slippery dealers, gullible customers, and a dogged police officer. His research is impressive and his reflections on the real victims of art fraud are provocative.” — Charlotte Gray, author of Murdered Midas

“Beyond fascinating. Endlessly intriguing. Dellandrea’s book is the ultimate mix of crime, art, and salacious, delicious detail that you can’t stop reading.” — Barry Avrich, Director/Producer of Made You Look

“Was the last Group of Seven painting you looked at a fake? Quite possibly, according to Jon S. Dellandrea. Packed with art, history, case examples, careful examinations, and jaw-dropping details about how crime has been part of the Canadian cultural ecosystem, The Great Canadian Art Fraud Case reveals why for decades scholars, auction houses, galleries, and museums have turned a blind eye to felonies in plain sight.” — Sara Angel, Executive Director, The Art Canada Institute

The Great Canadian Art Fraud Case reads like the detective story it actually is. It even boasts a real-life police inspector as the protagonist who delves dutifully into a subject that he initially knows practically nothing about but becomes a bonafide art expert and the hero of the hour. Yet, not even the inspector could supply a definitive answer to just who the forger was ... It is left to Dellandrea to point the finger, following his years of painstaking research among dusty archives and ramshackle attics, tracking down anyone who had even the briefest recollection of the case as well as those involved in it.” — Oakville News

The Great Canadian Art Fraud Case combines detailed scholarship, solid journalistic research, and engaging personal stories in an enjoyable and enlightening read. Leavened with flashes of wit and interesting contextual side paths, Dellandrea’s book, which reads like just what he describes it as — a labour of love — is highly recommended reading for anyone who is interested in the rewards and the pitfalls of collecting Canadian ‘blue-chip’ art.” — Billie