A Great Master in the living room? Joshua Sims meets an artist who can oblige
"USUALLY people commission a fake from me simply because they can't afford an original, and it is, after all, impressive to have that kind of painting on your wall," says Rachel Macfadyen. "But what they reply when a friend says, `Ooh, I like your Turner', I don't know." At only 27, Rachel has painted more than her fair share of masterpieces. Though she will turn her brush to anything, her clients' favourites are Turner, Monet, Czanne and other similarly palettable artists.

Her clients are an international bunch from all walks of life. Robert, 30, a successful novelist, inspired by a producer friend's "Lord Leighton", has his £1,800 "Rossetti" bathed in the moody firelight of his study. The original languishes in the Tate. "I saw the original and just wanted it, but obviously it would be impossibly expensive. So I commissioned Rachel and, three weeks later, to all intents I had it, and at a wonderful price." Somewhat better value than his £3,500 worth of genuine-but-tiny Burne-Jones sketch.

Rachel charges in relation to the difficulty of the subject. Turner and Dufy are easy, though a good Rousseau is more complicated and may cost up to £5,000. Czannes look effortless, but need to be reworked over and over. "It's a question of getting into the artist's head and trying to think as the artist was at the time," she says.

There are, however, legal restrictions. Copyright law means that the original's artist must have been dead for over 50 years, and there is no question of the fake being a forgery: the copy will be painstakingly accurate but will lack the painter's signature and carry Rachel's on the back.

But there are also advantages. "It sounds terrible," says Rachel, "but one of the beauties is that the fake can be scaled down to suit a certain interior space." One practical American client, less fussy in his choice of artist, simply wanted something the same colour as his walls. Both practices, however, are typical in art history - the customer, even Michaelangelo's, has always been right.

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