8. Van Meegeren enjoyed a decadent and opulent lifestyle during the war years
Van Meegeren enjoyed his celebrity as a painter, and the wealth his hidden life as a forger brought him, before and during World War II. He hosted lavish parties in France and later in Amsterdam. His second wife was a noted actress, Johanna van Walraven. His parties included political notables, wealthy bankers and art collectors, musicians and other celebrities, and during the war, German administrators and military leaders. He drank heavily, beginning in the morning every day, and in order to sleep took sleeping pills containing morphine. He eventually became addicted to the morphine, and required other drugs to counter its effects, allowing him to work. Van Meegeren also smoked heavily, cigarettes, cigars, and according to some, opium.
His fame was such that he had no qualms about sending an inscribed copy of his own book of drawings and other artworks to Adolf Hitler in 1942. Hitler, himself a failed painter, kept the book at his home in Berchtesgaden, discovered there by American troops in 1945. Van Meegeren’s health failed noticeably during the war years, as his lifestyle began to take its toll. Nonetheless, he continued in the same vein throughout the war, and continued to produce both legitimate work in his own name, and forgeries in the name of the masters. By 1945 he owned, according to his own records, 67 properties including over a dozen mansions on the canals of Amsterdam, as well as the homes earlier purchased in France.