Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

    Title: The Art Forger: A Novel
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Mystery
    Format: Paperback; 384 pages
    Publisher: Algonquin Books (May 21, 2013)
    ISBN-10: 1616203161
    ISBN-13: 978-1616203160
    Author's Website:
    Notes: Library Loan

On March 18, 1990, the art world suffered a tremendous loss. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was robbed of 13 priceless works of art. Included among the stolen paintings were masterpieces such as Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee," Vermeer's "The Concert" and Degas' "After the Bath." None of the artwork has ever been recovered and no arrests were ever made. No one had any clue what happened any of the artwork, that is until now...

"Claire, I've just been given the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to do good, real good for lots of people. And I hope you'll feel the same way about the one I'm about to give you." He pauses. "Although I suppose yours is really more like making a deal with the devil."(...)

"Okay," I say. "What are we talking about here?"

He locks his eyes on mine, "Something not quite on the up-and-up."

I don't break the stare. "I thought you said it was an opportunity to do good?"

"The end is good, It's just the mans that are a bit iffy."


"There's illegal and there's illegal."

"And which one is this?"

Markel looks across the room at the Degas and Pissarro. 

And now it all makes sense. "Oh" is all I can say.

Aiden Markel, owner of a prestigious and world renown art gallery Markel G wants Claire to forge a copy of the infamous stolen painting by Degas known as "After the Bath," the fifth in a series. Somehow the painting came into his possession through questionable means and his plan is to make a copy giving the forgery to the buyer and, at some point, returning the original to it's rightful place at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. As Claire muses over the possibility, Markel dangles the carrot that practically guarantees her cooperation in front of her...

"I meant what I said about your paintings, Claire. You have a unique talent. You always did. Just because you've been blackballed doesn't mean you can't paint." He pauses. "I'd also like to give you a one-woman show at the gallery."
Dare she take the offer? After all, she reasons, "There's no crime in copying a painting--obviously, as this is how I make the money I dutifully report to the IRS every April--the criminal part doesn't come until a copy is put up for sale as the original. Ergo, the seller, not the painter, is the crook."

But her theory will be put to the test when her forgery is discovered. Will she be able to prove her innocence? She could lose everything, but even as she began working on her replica, she suspected the work she was copying was a fake. The problem is, how can she prove it and will anyone believe her?


This was a fun story with a bit of a mystery to it. Three years ago Claire Roth was a promising student of the talented Isaac Cullion. Isaac was well on his way to making a name for himself in the art world but had yet to leave his mark. Three years ago, Claire and Isaac had an affair and something happened which lead to terrible consequences. One of them died by their own hand, while the other was blackballed by the industry and blamed for the death. The events which lead to the beginning of the end of her career also earned her the nick name of "the Great Pretender" which is rather ironic as the majority of her income is earned by her working for creating high quality reproductions of nineteenth-century European masterpieces. As the story progresses, we learn the details of what transpired between Isaac and Claire.

Besides the flashbacks of what happened three years ago, we also get to read letters long since destroyed or stowed away by the relatives of Isabella "Belle" Stewart Gardner. They tell how Belle acquired the highly prized Degas painting and give us a little background into the somewhat eccentric and quirky Isabella Stewart Gardner who upon her death, left her home and its contents to become a museum with the stipulation that nothing be moved.

What I loved about this book, is the way the author brings everything together at the climax. In a way, it's like a big unveiling as all the aspects of the painting and Claire's disgrace, both past and present, come together so we can get a clear view of the whole. We find out the why, the who, the where, and the what of it all and as the many layers that were buried are revealed as we get to the heart of the mystery.

Overall, I give this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I almost ended up buying this one because the audio book was too slow for my tastes. Luckily, the ebook version came in before I broke down and bought it from Amazon. I adored how the creation of the forgery symbolizes what is going on in Claire's life. First, she stripped down the layers of her past as she stripped the Meissonier painting down to its sizing. Then she reinvented herself as she recreated a masterpiece on top of the foundation of the blank canvas with all its cracks still in tact, creating something better and new. While not a full blown happily ever after, I felt the bittersweet ending was appropriate and well done. I highly recommend this one.

Notes to keep you in the know:
While a art theft did take place at the Gardner museum on March 18, 1990 as Ms. Shapiro reported, "After the Bath" by Edward Degas was not one of those artworks stolen. While there is  an "After the Bath" painting, there was never a fifth in the series of it. To read more about the heist, go to:

1 comment:

  1. I loved this book! Nothing is as it first seems and long ago mysteries gradually come to light and are resolved. The main character, Claire, is very intense and motivated through it all. Though this is based upon a true event, this work describes the story of one particular painting with detailed excitement and mystery!

    Wait till you see KRW Injury Attorney


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...