Book Review: The Art Forger

January 8, 2013 art, book review, Boston, Degas, historical fiction, She Reads 5

Written by:  B. A. Shapiro

Published by: Algonquin Books  October 2012

Pages: 368 Pages

Source: Publisher

Claire Roth is an artist, a painter who had been long shunned and called a fake and a forger.  A choice Claire made three years ago left her reputation torn apart.  She now works on her own art, in the hope that she can overcome the past, and in order to support herself she works for an art reproduction company painting legitimate copies of art.

In 1990 a robbery occurred in Boston at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Several works of fine art were stolen, including a Rembrandt, a …………….and some Degas drawings, and a famous painting, After the Bath.  No leads have lead to their recovery.  Because of a strict will left by Isabella Gardner nothing can be removed or added to the art that was set by her after her death.  The frames hang empty in the museum.

Claire is approached by gallery owner Aiden Markel, he asks her to forge an important piece of art, in exchange for $50,000 and a showing in his gallery.  Claire is tempted and then after she agrees she is shocked to see the stolen Degas in her studio, one of the pieces stolen from the Gardner Museum.  This makes her nervous and excited, as she is a student of his work, his style and as she prepares to recreate his art she discovers something else.  Is this piece that has been given to her as an original also a forgery?  Why don’t his sketches of models add up to the women she sees in this painting?  This is just the beginning of a long and twisted journey for Claire and Aiden.  What she discovers is so very exciting!

I am not a student of the fine arts, I don’t have much experience with paintings or art style other than the very basic knowledge many of us have from simply being slightly educated in high school and college.  I was drawn into this book in such a deep way it was surprising.  I loved the discussion and details of how to recreate a painting from over 100 years ago, how the paint and pigments blend and work together.  The details in each step that Claire took to remove the art work from an older work of art to use the canvas for her forged Degas were amazing.  I had no idea one could successfully remove paint and re-use a canvas. 

I enjoyed how Shapiro took a real event in recent history, the theft from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and created a fictional twist on this.  I imagine the research was both tedious and exciting.  I knew nothing of the intriguing Mrs Gardner, imagine living in her time, traveling in her circles and collecting all the art and building a museum/home.  I love how Shapiro took this story from current day, to the late 1800’s giving the reader insight and a taste of all that went behind the art and passion of the artist and the art lover. Claire was an easy character to like and cheer for.  I related to her fears as things began to become anxious in her life.  I tend to be the kind of person who worries and concocts every negative scenario as to what can go wrong.

I admit I may not have chosen this book for myself, perhaps intimidated by my lack of art knowledge.  Thank you to She Reads for choosing this book for January, because I feel like a new door has been opened to me in terms of books and art. I stayed up til the wee hours reading this book, needing to find out the answers, the resolution of all the questions in Claire’s life.  It was SO worth it!  I’ve given this book a 5 out of 5 stars, and I absolutely look for more brilliant books from B. A. Shapiro. 

5 Responses to “Book Review: The Art Forger”

  1. Zibilee

    I have this one, and from all the positive buzz that I have been reading, I need to get to it soon. I also don’t know much about art, but the fact that this book is so clear and informative really entices me even further. Great job with this review today! I really enjoyed it!!

  2. Jaime Boler

    A wonderful review, Anita! Like you, I am not sure I would have read this book if She Reads had not selected it. I’m so glad they did, though.

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