The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

forgerbookcover.phpFresh off Dan Brown‘s Inferno, I was in the mood for another art mystery and my co-worker recommended The Art Forger, by B. A. Shapiro, and it was the perfect fit. Intrigue, scandal and a behind the scenes look at how to forge priceless pieces of art. What more could you want?

Based on the real-life, still unsolved, 1990 art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, The Art Forger is a captivating, quick paced read. The main character, Claire, was a promising young artist, but was black-balled years before based on an art world scandal. As the novel begins, she finds herself in an interesting predicament. A prominent art gallery owner approaches her with a proposal. Forge an Edgar Degas painting from the heist to sell and in exchange get a one-woman art show at his gallery.  Claire grapples with the decision but takes on the project and soon suspects that the painting she is forging may itself be a forgery.

The story caught my attention immediately and I could not put it down. It had interesting characters and fascinating details about the modern art scene in Boston. Claire’s story is the main one, but Shapiro also weaves an earlier back story with details of the scandal, and a historical aspect that is told in letters by Isabella Stewart Gardner and her encounters with painter, Edgar Degas. The three storylines alternate between the chapters but the flow is smooth and all will have your rapt attention.

The author’s vivid descriptions of the paintings really make them an integral part of the story. They had me headed to the nonfiction section of my library to find some art books on Degas, so I could closer examine his works. Degas is best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, though The Art Forger is about his “Bather” series. I will leave you with this astounding tidbit that I learned from this book… experts believe there are several pieces of art, thought to be real, that are still hanging in museums all over the world, that are forgeries.

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