I just discovered Tom Keating, an art forger. I was reading a junky $5 book in a book remainders store on famous criminals (as you do) and as I read his story I’m afraid I liked the guy for the way in which his great skills seemed ‘genuine’ as it were – driven by the love of and respect for the work (and a hatred of the cynicism of the art market). When on trial for one of his forgeries and on being shown the painting in question he said “Yes, I’m ashamed” and the reason he was ashamed was that, though he didn’t doubt he’d painted it (he’d painted thousands of ‘forgeries’, often giving them away to friends) the particular painting he was being shown was poorly executed with what Keating obviously felt was inadequate respect for the artist.
Well I was sympathetic from there on. And the story has an ending which, whether or not it is happy (as Dorothy Parker said, there have been billions of people in the world and not one had a happy ending), is just. His ‘forgeries’ are now sought after by collectors. And rightly so.
It would make a good opera.