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March 12, 2014
Review of “The Art Forger” by B. A. Shapiro. Published 2012 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
It isn’t a crime to paint a copy of the Mona Lisa. It’s only a crime if you paint a copy of the Mona Lisa and then sell it as Da Vinci’s own work.
Claire Roth is an artist who makes a bare living painting and selling very good reproductions of famous works of art. She would much rather make a living selling her own original work, but she’s been black balled by the Boston art scene. But at the start of the novel, a gallery owner offers her a deal even the Devil would think twice about: create a forgery of a stolen painting for a buyer he knows, and he’ll stage a one-woman show of her paintings at her gallery, plus pay her handsomely.
Claire eventually agrees, and is shocked when the painting turns out to be a Degas, one of those stolen in 1990 from Boston’s Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum during one of the most famous art heists in history. As she studies it while preparing to copy it, however, she becomes convinced that it too is actually a forgery.
The Art Forger cleverly mixes fact with fiction, taking the reader into the art world as Claire learns more about Isabelle Gardner and Edgar Degas, tries to figure out who could have forged the painting, and attempts to find the original. The Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum is a real place…the book intrigued me enough that I looked it up online and was able to see where some of the action takes place. http://www.gardnermuseum.org/ There’s even a page discussing the theft. http://www.gardnermuseum.org/resources/theft
This novel isn’t going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature—it isn’t deep or profound, but it was an enjoyable book and I had trouble putting it down. It would be a perfect book for a rainy spring Saturday or a weekend at the beach!
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