Tom Keating (British, 1917-1984); An Unfinished Oil on Canvas

Origin: English
Period: Late 20thC
Provenance: Tom Keating Studio Sale 10 October 1984 Lot 169
Date: c.1980
Height: 30”
Width: 35”

The unfinished oil on canvas study in rectangular form, by notorious art forger Tom Keating (1917-1984), of an unknown lucid religious scene predominantly in reds and yellows and stamped to verso Tom Keating Studio Sale 10 October 1984 Lot 169, and possibly his last ever painting.

The picture remains in completely original condition with no over-painting or attempted restoration and no punctures or repairs and has not been cleaned or varnished. Please refer to the photographs for a full visual reference. There is a frame with the picture that can be provided on sale.

Tom Keating was employed in the post-war period as a restorer and copyist of paintings; on discovering that his work was being knowingly sold as original, he began to forge the work of such artists as Rembrandt, Constable, Degas, Renoir, Turner. His aim was to show up the gullibility of connoisseurs and in 1976 he announced publicly that a group of "Samuel Palmers" were actually his work.

He was prosecuted, but the trial was stopped due to his poor health. In 1982, he appeared in a television series in which he talked about his favourite artists and demonstrated their style, and the following year 135 of his paintings were sold at Christies for £72,000.  The total estimated of the profits of his forgeries amount to more than 10 million dollars in today's value.

Sexton blake is a term coined in the UK from the name of a fictional detective, comparable to Sherlock Holmes. In rhyming slang, the term means "fake". As usual, for a short time after its creation, a slang term has limited currency as it is known only to a few people, typically those in the criminal underworld. So Keating initially referred to all of his forgeries as Sextons. The Essex town of Manningtree has just named a street after him.

What we particularly like about this picture is that you can see his workings clearly with it being unfinished, the inner workings that fooled many an expert; this is a future collectable work of art and possibly his last ever painting.