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Tom Keating
(1917 — 1984)

Born in London in 1917, Tom Keating was a painter, art restorer and art forger. Although he had a passion for drawing and painting from childhood, he had a variety of unrelated jobs after he left school before starting work with his father, a house painter. During this time he attended art school in Croydon and Camberwell in the evenings. He served during the Second World War and only became a full-time art student at the age of thirty, studying at Goldsmiths’ College on a war service grant. He joined a restoration studio soon afterwards where he was asked to make copies of several paintings. When he later discovered that they were being sold as genuine, he decided to start creating forgeries to be sold on the art market. He continued to work as a freelance restorer for the next twenty-five years, all the while painting fakes of more than 130 artists and putting them into circulation on the market. He was finally discovered in 1976 when auctioneers realised that thirteen Samuel Palmer watercolours that were for sale were in fact fake. He wrote to The Times and admitted to having created them, claiming he had done so in revenge at art traders who get rich at the expense of artists. He was arrested the following year and put on trial in 1979 but the trial was stopped due to his ill health. The revelations surrounding his fakes had made him a folk hero and in 1982 he presented the Channel 4 programme Tom Keating on Painters in which he discussed his favourite artists and their styles, which was followed by a series on the Impressionists. He died in 1984.


Keating also painted his own original works which he exhibited but which were never successful commercially. His own painting technique was inspired by Titian. He is most famous, however, for his forgeries which have become increasingly valuable as collectibles.