The Art of Forgery

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University of Central Missouri
The Art of Forgery
History of Art Forgery


The purpose of this paper is to examine the history of Art Forgery and the history of one of the greatest art forgers of our time, Tom Keating. The paper will go into the basic history of art forgery from the first recorded art forgery all the way up to the ways forgeries are made today. It will also go into the changes of how forgeries were detected and how forgers are prosecuted.

The history of art forgery is not as sinister as some people may believe. In the past, and in some art schools today, students were/are made to copy the works of the master artists, such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Monet, and countless others, to hone their skills and practice. In years long past the masters would create their originals and then many copies would be made to make it visible to many people all over the world and to enhance the likelihood that the art would survive the ages. (Dutton, 1983) This went on for years without any thought but as time went on more and more of the masters art started to surface the need for experts were needed to make sure the art in question was the real thing. In the past a person would have to spend years if not a lifetime researching and studying the way an artist would paint by looking at brush strokes, type of paint and canvas used, and other distinctive characteristics of the artist. As time progressed those same experts became some of the most accomplished art forgers. One such forger was French artist Jean-Pierre Schecroun.  Before he was arrested and found guilty of forgery in 1962, Schecroun is said to had produced somewhere around eighty forgeries of artists’ works like Picasso and other modern masters. The pictures were said to have brought in £25,000 in two years (Dolice, 2003). Forgeries have become such a common practice that any work that surfaces that is allegedly a work done by a modern master such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, Miro, and Chagall is put under great scrutiny. Along with art experts, art restores make good forgers. In 1970 at an auction house in Europe auctioneers noticed that of all the paintings they were getting ready to auction off that there were thirteen paintings of the famous British painter Samuel Palmer but all of them had the same theme, the town of Shoreham, England. After an article was released revealing their suspicions an art restorer named Thomas Patrick Keating claimed that all thirteen were of his making. Keating was born in 1918 Lewisham, a borough of London to poor un-noteworthy parents. From a young age Keating was a gifted painter and have of love art. After World War II he became an art restorer. (Keating, Norman, & Norman, 1977) After not being able to support himself and his family he became a house painter to make extra money to make ends meet. He did all he could to break into the art market by exhibiting his paintings at numerous galleries but he never got much recognition. In his own eyes Keating believed that the whole gallery system was “rotten.” He stated that the system was “dominated by American "avant-garde fashion, with critics and dealers often conniving to line their own pockets at the expense both of naive collectors and impoverished artists." (Keating, Norman, & Norman, 1977) Keating had have enough and decided to get revenge on the broken system. He formed a plan to destabilize the gallery and auction system by flooding the market with forgeries. By the time he was caught he allegedly produced over 2,000 forgeries and copied over 100 different artists. In an article to the Guardian, a British news network a friend of Keating’s, John Brandler said that "He thought, 'I'm as good as Rembrandt, Palmer, Renoir and all the rest of the classic painters, and I'm going to prove it'," and many think that he did. Known as a forger with a cause he would leave tell-tale markings that would one day reveal...
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