Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: "The Art Forger" by B.A. Shapiro

Part mystery, part art history lesson, part novel about rebuilding your self-confidence after it has been shattered, B.A. Shapiro's The Art Forger is a well-written, intriguing, and well-researched look at the world of art forgery.

Claire Roth is a young artist whose promising career was derailed after a scandal involving a former lover and fellow artist. She now makes a living working for a website called, creating perfect copies of famous art masterpieces, but she dreams of entering the legitimate art world once again. One day she is approached by gallery owner Aiden Markel, who offers her an opportunity that is too good to pass up: forge a copy of a famed Degas painting stolen as part of a 1990 art heist from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the largest unsolved art heist in history, and in exchange, Markel will hold a one-woman show of Claire's work in his famed gallery. He also ensures Claire there is no way either of them can get caught.

When the original painting, which Markel apparently gained possession of through a shadowy transaction, arrives in Claire's studio, she is transfixed by its beauty and its idiosyncrasies when compared to Degas' earlier work. The more research she does to ensure her forgery is a perfect copy of the original, the more she begins to suspect that the painting delivered to her studio isn't the original either. She begins doing her own investigation into where the original painting could have been switched for a forgery, delving into both Degas and Gardner's histories, while trying to remain above suspicion for the work she is doing.

I don't know much about art history (and not all of the history that Shapiro shares in the book is true), but I found this book tremendously intriguing, both for its look at works I've seen and heard about, and its terrific portrayal of a woman interested in rebuilding her life, but determined to uncover truths that may lead to her life being shattered even further. I really wondered how Shapiro would tie everything up, and while some of what occurred wasn't necessarily surprising, her storytelling ability really hooked me, and I read the entire book very quickly.

If you're intrigued by art history with a little bit of mystery thrown in along with a well-told story, definitely pick up The Art Forger. You may even learn something along the way!

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