Image Courtesy of The Vibe (which is attached to a very interesting article on, you guessed it, art forgery detection, go read it!)

I thought I might give you a brief introduction to the notorious Tom Keating, primarily because he is a little unusual by twentieth century forger standards.  Like most art forgers he believed that the Art Market was a scam run by pretentious shills and frankly a bunch of hocus pocus (this is still a commonly held prejudice but that’s for another day).  Unlike forgers such as Van Meegeren or Hoving, Keating deliberately use anachronistic materials and planted traps in order to have his work exposed as quickly as possible.  This also conveniently protected himself legally should he ever be accused of fraud, as the paintings were conveniently made NOT to withstand scientific evidence. Cool huh?

For example, he would write obscene phrases or “this is a fake” in white lead pain on the canvas before painting, which would be immediately revealed with X-Ray.  He would also put inaccurate elements in paintings to betray the forgery to the more careful observer, or even paint a layer of glycerin onto the canvas prior to painting, so that the first time someone attempted to clean the painting, the glycerin would cause it to dissolve!

Eventually Keating was caught due to an overabundance of Samuel Palmer paintings all depicting the same thing.  He was arrested, tried, and his case dismissed.  He then went on to do a series of television specials for the BBC on the techniques of the Old Masters, proving once again (regrettably) that crime can pay.  And, as with all artists who can’t catch a break when they’re alive, his paintings, and in particular his forgeries (well those that anyone can safely identify) are now worth quite a pretty penny.