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Improbable Philanthropist: The Mysterious Case of the Jesuit Art Forger

The Avant Diaries' interview with Mark Landis, the mysterious Jesuit priest and art forger.

Most art forgers do it for the money and some have made millions replicating famous masterpieces. But 58-year-old Mark Landis, a soft spoken Louisiana native, is not your typical copy cat. The highly prolific, skilled painter, has been forging well known works of art for 30 years, with the sole purpose of donating these "originals" to museums around the country. Dressed as a businessman, or in more recent years, as a Jesuit priest, Landis has approached over 50 museums, 20 States, offering them coveted paintings for their collections. Sometimes the works will be donated in a relative's name, like his mother, other times he will offer the work simply to be philanthropic. He would never take money for the work, not even a tax deduction.

Mr. Landis would often go under his own name, or Father Scott, speaking with museum heads around the country. Several accepted the works and some were even hung among their permanent collections. However many were discovered quite quickly as inauthentic.

Last week, the Avant Diaries released a video inviting viewers in to the strange world of Mr. Landis where the artist explains, "About all I've got is an ability to draw or paint…Sure it's not real, but if something's attractive or beautiful that's what counts."


Landis seems to just want someone to appreciate his work. He's never been charged for any crime, and it remains unclear if he's actually committed one, despite using up countless hours of time spent with museum professionals examining the work, which are always beautiful despite being fake. Maybe it's even true what Landis says, if it's attractive or beautiful isn't that what counts?

Watch their follow up video here.

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