Picture forging had been increasing in Britain through the nineteenth century, but no single forger had drawn special attention until Tom Keating (1917-1984) emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. Keating, who protested against the art establishment by fooling it, was the first forger in the history of art to write an autobiography; he even spoke about the old masters on television. This paper attempts to discuss various aspects of the Keating affair, centering on Keating's forgery of Samuel Palmer's (1805-1881) works, particularly with a view toward analyzing its relationship with the art world at the time and the development of art history.
This article thus discusses primarily three aspects of the case. Keating's background and art education is analyzed first, as well as his motivations, themes, techniques, and several examples of his forgery. Secondly, this article discusses why Keating chose to forge a large number of Samuel Palmer's early “Shoreham period” works, with special attention to the impact those works were having among painters of the time. Finally, the reactions of the academic world, the art world, and Keating himself after the forgeries' discovery are thoroughly traced through nearly one hundred articles and letters published in The Times. Finally, the importance and significance of the Keating case in the art world is discussed in the conclusion.