Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: "The Art Forger"

"The Art Forger" by B.A. Shapiro
First published in 2012
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
(image source)

In this page-turner that blends fact and fiction, Claire Roth is a struggling Boston painter who's been blackballed by the local art community because of an incident with her famous artist ex-boyfriend. Claire makes a living by painting reproductions of famous works for an online vendor and she specializes in the masterpieces of Edgar Degas.

Claire is approached by an acquaintance, art gallery owner Aiden Markel, who asks her to secretly copy a painting in exchange for her own show at his gallery, a large sum of money and a chance to do some "good," and despite her reservations she can't refuse.

When it turns out the Degas painting Claire is to copy is one of 13 works of art that were stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, Claire has a slew of second thoughts. But though Claire earns a living by masterfully replicating the works of others, she's an extremely talented artist in her own right and she knows a one-woman gallery show is the best shot she has at salvaging her career.

Ultimately, she accepts this "deal with the devil" and immerses herself in her craft -- stripping an old canvas and beginning her forgery (and it is a forgery, because Markel intends to sell it to a black market buyer as the original and anonymously return the stolen Degas to the museum). It's fascinating to learn the pulled-from-fact methods and techniques Claire employs so the new painting will pass for a century-old original when it's authenticated. But of course things don't ultimately go according to plan, which is no surprise when dealing with a piece of one of the largest unsolved art heists in history.

I was thoroughly engrossed in Shapiro's novel and I learned a lot about the art world while devouring the book. Shapiro, who is obviously passionate about art, did a great job melding the real and not real in her novel. While several works by Degas were stolen in the real-life Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, the Degas painting in the novel -- the fifth in his After the Bath series -- was fictitious. Still, I Googled Degas' other works so I could create an image in my head of After the Bath 5, which Shapiro writes about so vividly and Claire copies so lovingly.

"The Art Forger" was a good literary novel, with hints of suspense, romance and history, and it would make an excellent summer read. Grab the book and a glass of lemonade and transport yourself to an artist's studio in Boston!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! Comments make my day, and I read and appreciate every single one!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...