Tom Keating
Overview
 
For the football player of the same name see Tom Keating (American football)
Tom Keating (American football)
For the famous art forger of the same name, see Tom Keating.For the priest and author of the same name see Thomas Keating.Thomas Arthur Keating is a retired American collegiate and Professional Football player...

.

For the priest and author of the same name see Thomas Keating
Thomas Keating
For the famous art forger of the same name, see Tom Keating.For the American football player of the same name, see Tom Keating .Fr...

.


Thomas Patrick Keating (March 1, 1917 - February 12, 1984) was an art restorer
Art restoration
Art restoration is related to art conservation. Restoration is a process that attempts to return the work of art to some previous state that the restorer imagines was the "original". This was commonly done in the past...

 and famous art faker
Art forgery
Art forgery is the creation of works of art which are falsely attributed to other, usually more famous, artists. Art forgery can be extremely lucrative, but modern dating and analysis techniques have made the identification of forged artwork much simpler....

 who claimed to have faked more than 2,000 paintings by over 100 different artists.

Keating was born in Lewisham
Lewisham
Lewisham is a district in South London, England, located in the London Borough of Lewisham. It is situated south-east of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.-History:...

, London, into a poor family. After World War II he began to restore paintings for a living, though he also worked as a house painter to make ends meet.
Encyclopedia
For the football player of the same name see Tom Keating (American football)
Tom Keating (American football)
For the famous art forger of the same name, see Tom Keating.For the priest and author of the same name see Thomas Keating.Thomas Arthur Keating is a retired American collegiate and Professional Football player...

.

For the priest and author of the same name see Thomas Keating
Thomas Keating
For the famous art forger of the same name, see Tom Keating.For the American football player of the same name, see Tom Keating .Fr...

.


Thomas Patrick Keating (March 1, 1917 - February 12, 1984) was an art restorer
Art restoration
Art restoration is related to art conservation. Restoration is a process that attempts to return the work of art to some previous state that the restorer imagines was the "original". This was commonly done in the past...

 and famous art faker
Art forgery
Art forgery is the creation of works of art which are falsely attributed to other, usually more famous, artists. Art forgery can be extremely lucrative, but modern dating and analysis techniques have made the identification of forged artwork much simpler....

 who claimed to have faked more than 2,000 paintings by over 100 different artists.

Keating was born in Lewisham
Lewisham
Lewisham is a district in South London, England, located in the London Borough of Lewisham. It is situated south-east of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.-History:...

, London, into a poor family. After World War II he began to restore paintings for a living, though he also worked as a house painter to make ends meet. He exhibited his own paintings, but he failed to break into the art market. He had a wife Hellen that he separated from in his later years. They had a son called Douglas.

Forger with a cause

Keating perceived the gallery system to be rotten, dominated, he said, by American "avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 fashion, with critics and dealers often conniving to line their own pockets at the expense both of naive collectors and impoverished artists". Keating retaliated by creating forgeries to fool the experts, hoping to destabilize the system.

Keating planted 'time-bombs' in his products. He left clues of the paintings' true nature for fellow art restorers or conservators to find. For example, he might write text onto the canvas with lead white before he began the painting, knowing that x-ray
X-ray
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies in the range 120 eV to 120 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma...

s would later reveal the text. He deliberately added flaws or anachronism
Anachronism
An anachronism—from the Greek ανά and χρόνος — is an inconsistency in some chronological arrangement, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other...

s, or used materials peculiar to the twentieth century. Modern copyists of old masters use similar practices to guard against accusations of fraud.

Technique

Keating's own approach of choice in oil painting
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 was a Venetian technique inspired by Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

's practice, though modified and fine-tuned along Dutch lines. The resultant paintings, though time-consuming to execute, have a richness and subtlety of colour and optical effect, variety of texture and depth of atmosphere unattainable in any other way. Unsurprisingly, his favourite artist was Rembrandt.

For a 'Rembrandt', Keating might make pigments by boiling nuts for ten hours and filtering the result through silk; such colouring would eventually fade while genuine earth pigments
Clay earth pigment
Clay earth pigments are naturally occurring minerals, principally iron oxides, that have been used since prehistoric times as pigments. The primary types are*ochre*sienna*umber...

 would not. As a restorer he knew about the chemistry of cleaning fluids; so, a layer of glycerine under the paint layer ensured that when any of his forged paintings needed to be cleaned (as all oil paintings need to be, eventually), the glycerin would dissolve, the paint layer would disintegrate, and the painting - now a ruin - would stand revealed as a fake.

Occasionally, as a restorer, he would come across frames with Christie's
Christie's
Christie's is an art business and a fine arts auction house.- History :The official company literature states that founder James Christie conducted the first sale in London, England, on 5 December 1766, and the earliest auction catalogue the company retains is from December 1766...

 catalog numbers still on them. To help in establishing false provenances for his forgeries he would call the auction house to ask whose paintings they had contained - and then painted the pictures according to the same artist's style.

Keating also produced a number of watercolors in the style of Samuel Palmer
Samuel Palmer
Samuel Palmer was a British landscape painter, etcher and printmaker. He was also a prolific writer. Palmer was a key figure in Romanticism in Britain and produced visionary pastoral paintings.-Early life:...

 and oil painting
Oil painting
Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil—especially in early modern Europe, linseed oil. Often an oil such as linseed was boiled with a resin such as pine resin or even frankincense; these were called 'varnishes' and were prized for their body...

s by various European masters including François Boucher
François Boucher
François Boucher was a French painter, a proponent of Rococo taste, known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories representing the arts or pastoral occupations, intended as a sort of two-dimensional furniture...

, Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas[p] , born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist...

, Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French painter and printmaker whose late Rococo manner was distinguished by remarkable facility, exuberance, and hedonism. One of the most prolific artists active in the last decades of the Ancien Régime, Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings , of which only five...

, Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter.-Suffolk:Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk. He was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. At the age of thirteen he impressed his father with his penciling skills so that he let...

, Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. Primarily a figurative artist, he became known for paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form...

, Rembrandt, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that "Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to...

 and Kees van Dongen
Kees van Dongen
Cornelis Theodorus Maria van Dongen , usually known as Kees van Dongen or just Van Dongen, was a Dutch painter and one of the Fauves. He gained a reputation for his sensuous, at times garish, portraits....

.

Revealing the forger

In 1970, auctioneers noticed that there were thirteen watercolour paintings of Samuel Palmer for sale - all of them depicting the same theme, the town of Shoreham
Shoreham, Kent
Shoreham is a village and civil parish in the valley of the River Darent six miles north of Sevenoaks in Kent: it is in the District of Sevenoaks. The parish includes the settlements of Badgers Mount and Well Hill....

. When an article published in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

discussed the auctioneer's suspicions about their provenance, Keating confessed that they were his. He also estimated that more than 2,000 of his forgeries were in circulation. He had created them, he declared, as a protest against those art traders who get rich at the artist's expense. He also refused to list the forgeries.

Aftermath

Keating was finally arrested in 1977 and accused of conspiracy to defraud. That same year, he published his autobiography with Geraldine and Frank Norman. The case was dropped on account of his bad health. Years of chain smoking
Chain smoking
Chain smoking is the practice of lighting a new cigarette for personal consumption immediately after one that is finished, sometimes using the finished cigarette to light the next one. It is a common form of addiction.-Causes:...

 and the effects of breathing in the fumes of chemicals used in art restoring including ammonia
Ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

, turpentine
Turpentine
Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene...

 and methyl alcohol, together with the stress induced by the court case, had taken their toll. Through 1982 and 1983 Keating rallied, however, and though in fragile health, he presented television programmes on the techniques of old masters for Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 in the UK. These programmes are still available on video. Just a year before he died in Colchester
Colchester
Colchester is an historic town and the largest settlement within the borough of Colchester in Essex, England.At the time of the census in 2001, it had a population of 104,390. However, the population is rapidly increasing, and has been named as one of Britain's fastest growing towns. As the...

 at age 66, Keating claimed in a television interview that, in his opinion, he was not an especially good painter. His proponents would disagree. Keating is buried in the churchyard of Dedham Parish Church (Website), Keating's last painting, The Angel of Dedham, is to be found in the Muniment Library of the church.

Even when he was alive, many art collectors and celebrities, such as the ex-heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper
Henry Cooper (boxer)
Sir Henry Cooper OBE KSG was an English heavyweight boxer known for the effectiveness of his left hook, "Enry's 'Ammer", and his knockdown of the young Muhammad Ali...

, had begun to collect Keating's work. After his death his paintings became increasingly valuable collectibles. The same year as his death, Christie's auctioned 204 of his works. The amount raised from the auction was not announced but it is said to have been considerable. Even his known forgeries, described in catalogs as "after" Gainsborough or Cézanne, attain high prices.

Further reading

  • Tom Keating, Geraldine Norman and Frank Norman, The Fake's Progress: The Tom Keating Story, London: Hutchinson and Co., 1977
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