Tom Keating on Painters

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Tom Keating (1917-1984) was an art restorer and a famous art forger exposed 1976, and tried and let off for health reasons in 1979. In the early 80s he had a TV series where he demonstrated the painting techniques of the old masters. Considering the art world rotten, he painted time bombs into his fakes. He is better known for his copies of 19th century works, but I find it particularly entertaining how he went into business faking Expressionists:

The artists he chose to Sexton – the German Expressionists – he deemed the opposite of Degas. “It may be unfair, but I have never liked them all that much,” he later explained. “You only have to look at the self-portraits of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff with his barbaric fizzogg and monocle, to see how arrogant they were.” But the Expressionists were in vogue with collectors, and Keating found them easy to mimic. Cribbing from “a little paperback that cost a few bob” he turned out twenty-one paintings in a weekend under bankable names including Kirchner, Nolde, and Pechstein. To save money, he simulated passages of thick impasto by mixing poster colors with house-painter’s emulsion. He rendered everything else in acrylic. As usual the canvases were old potboilers, sealed with rabbit-skin glue, and sometimes underpainted with assorted rude words. For those he used lead white, a traditional oil pigment he reckoned would show up in an x-ray due to the heavy metal content.

Masterpieces for everyone? The case of the socialist art forger Tom Keating (book excerpt)

Language note: to Sexton is a Cockney rhyming slang expression based on “Sexton Blake”, a British comic strip detective. So to Sexton is to fake.

Here are his TV appearances. These are very simple, rather underproduced affairs, where you stand behind the artist for 30 minutes and listen to him demonstrate his techniques. English for artists and art historians.


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