Dates: b. 1917-d. 1886
Tom Keating was born into a working class London family and initially worked as a house painter before serving as a boiler-stoker in World War II. After the war he took advantage of the scheme to offer servicemen college places and commenced a painting course at Goldsmiths College, but failed to secure a qualification after two years. He struggled to develop his own style and was more inclined to create pastiches of the artists which he admired, in particular Samuel Palmer. He began to pick up painting restoration work whilst still at College and after his studies, he worked for the art restorer Fred Roberts. In his autobiography ‘A fakes progress’ Keating discussed how he was sometimes tasked with removing or adding elements to pictures to make them more commercial. Fred Roberts also encouraged Keating’s copies and his fakes started circulating to galleries and London salerooms in a practise which he saw as railing against the corrupt galleries and standing up for impoverished artists. Keating is believed to have faked around 2000 paintings. His favourite artists for copying included Degas, Constable, Gainsborough and Rembrandt, he often inserted tell-tale clues or anachronisms which gave away the truth of the paintings. In 1970 he was exposed as a faker and finally arrested in 1977. The well publicised trial two years later, the publication of his autobiography, and a subsequent T.V. programme all served to make Keating infamous and his works became very collectable: it has been suggested that at the height of his fame, Keating’s Samuel Palmer inspired watercolours became more valuable that the originals! Towards the end of his life he lived in Dedham and is buried in the churchyard.
Prices at auction have wained to some extent as Keating’s fame has declined. Most works are now under four figures at auction. His more notable fakes can still be significantly more.