The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

The Art Forger

On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retai...

Title:The Art Forger
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1616201320
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:360 pages

The Art Forger Reviews

  • Diane

    This is a novel that is based on a true crime: a $500 million art heist at the Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. The story centers around artist Claire Roth, who is good at making reproductions of famous paintings. Early in the book, a dealer asks Claire to make a forgery of one of the Edgar Degas paintings that was stolen from the Gardner. Claire recognizes that she's making a deal with the devil, and part of her payment is she gets her own art show.

    The novel includes chapters about Claire's ba

    This is a novel that is based on a true crime: a $500 million art heist at the Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. The story centers around artist Claire Roth, who is good at making reproductions of famous paintings. Early in the book, a dealer asks Claire to make a forgery of one of the Edgar Degas paintings that was stolen from the Gardner. Claire recognizes that she's making a deal with the devil, and part of her payment is she gets her own art show.

    The novel includes chapters about Claire's background, which involve a doomed love affair with an older artist, and there are also letters from Isabella Stewart Gardner to her niece. Isabella was the person who originally bought the paintings in the museum and was friends with numerous artists in the late 1800s. The flashback chapters, the letters and the present-day action slowly build toward solving the mystery of the stolen painting.

    I enjoyed the artistic aspects of the novel, especially the details of different forgers and the skills they used to make such believable reproductions. However, I found the romantic parts of the story to be tedious and too much like chick-lit. There was also a critical decision in Claire's back story that I don't believe any self-respecting artist would make.

    Despite these minor irritants, I enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to friends who are interested in the art world.

  • Harry

    I'll make a confession right off the bat: I didn't give

    4 stars because I was blown away by the prose, scene, setting, or characterization. Had those been up to snuff I'd have given it an easy 5. There are some flat characters, relies somewhat on stereo typical thinking about artists and their studios, it sports some letters written by someone else in stand alone chapters which jar a bit with the first person view point (one would assume our heroine would have no knowledge of thes

    I'll make a confession right off the bat: I didn't give

    4 stars because I was blown away by the prose, scene, setting, or characterization. Had those been up to snuff I'd have given it an easy 5. There are some flat characters, relies somewhat on stereo typical thinking about artists and their studios, it sports some letters written by someone else in stand alone chapters which jar a bit with the first person view point (one would assume our heroine would have no knowledge of these letters and so these chapters intrude, come across as the author stepping into the novel herself to ensure our understanding).

    B.A. Shapiro's debut novel asks one simple question: "what would any of us be willing to do to secure our ambitions?" The setting for the novel is the modern day art world where artists, critics, curators, galleries, gallery owners, and yes, forgers collaborate to create one of the most lucrative enterprises in the world. I mean, really! Today most of us don't bat an eye when we think of sport franchises and multiple million dollar annual salaries being handed out for working six months out of a year. But when one single painting goes for millions of dollars just because it survived time and was painted by a certain individual a slight eye brow is raised and as we lean closer to what appears to be a group of nubile and plump (I won't say fat!)bathers hanging out together we do wonder what the big deal is with this artist (as opposed to the plethora of current day painters). We know something's different, something photographs can't capture, something in the glow of the skin, something about the essence of the thing. But, millions of dollars? Give me a break, right? And what if you're a painter yourself and say: "Hell, I can do that." You proceed to paint it and yet do not secure your ambitions...or do you?

    I am a painter myself. The very first time I knew I wanted to paint as a life's ambition was when, as a boy, I viewed the work of Maxfield Parrish, the 20th century american illustrator and fine artist. It rocked my world. The painting seemed to be lighted from the inside. Light didn't fall on it, it streamed from it. Have you ever viewed a kodachrome slide? Held it up to the light and felt the delicious wash of saturation, of color as you viewed it? That's what a Maxfield Parrish painting does. It was a view of the world, but a better one. In my twenties I spent years perfecting the Parrish technique (which harkens back to Bellini and later artist such as Degas) and to this day the paintings glow in my home, though, I don't paint in this manner anymore due to the incredible amount of time it takes in between glazings.

    So, imagine picking up what you hope is a decent mystery surrounding the art world and discovering further clues on the very techniques I've attempted to master and discovering a solution to a gnarly problem that has long escaped me (Why isn't there a writer who exclusively authors mysteries taking place in the art world, as for example

    does with horses and

    does with books?).

    One of the things I love about this book is its verisimilitude. Shapiro is absolutely correct in communicating factual techniques, but also communicates very accurately the immense satisfaction that comes from painting in this style: techniques discovered in the 14th century, techniques for which most artists today do not have the patience. I know it, because I've done it myself. That she clued me in on a

    , on how to get around the drying time in between glazings will result in my picking up this style again, in my later years. So this book educates, displays a true compassion for the work while it entertains as is the case in the aforementioned works of Francis and Dunning.

    The other thing that I love is Shapiro's plot: the whole concept of mysteries surrounding works of art. There are so many things we do not yet understand historically about the lives of various artists; so many paintings still missing after being plundered through war and outright theft. I mean, if a painting can be worth millions than it goes to follow that some would kill for it. Isn't that what drives most mystery/detectives? I mean: it's like walking into a second-hand bookstore with nothing but pristine, signed first editions, jacket flaps in impeccable order, on sale for $1. Right? Though no one is murdered in this one, Shapiro has given us an excellent Who-Dun-It, one that will surely spark your interest in the art world, in art, in what makes a painting beautiful, in the ambition that drives artists to do what they do, as well as what destroys them.

    As I said: this book is about ambition.

  • Delee

    I will start by saying that my experience reading The ART FORGER was like I sat down to watch the movie Heat, and for some reason the movie Quick Change ended up in my DVD player by accident.

    Okay maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but it was a much lighter read than I had expected...

    I kept looking at THE ART FORGER on other people's "to read" list and was kind of on the fence about it. Then I was sitting down watching Anderson Cooper on CNN, and he had a segment on the Gardner Museum Heist. Even tho

    I will start by saying that my experience reading The ART FORGER was like I sat down to watch the movie Heat, and for some reason the movie Quick Change ended up in my DVD player by accident.

    Okay maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but it was a much lighter read than I had expected...

    I kept looking at THE ART FORGER on other people's "to read" list and was kind of on the fence about it. Then I was sitting down watching Anderson Cooper on CNN, and he had a segment on the Gardner Museum Heist. Even though I knew that Barbara Shapiro's book was a work of fiction based on a factual event, I decided to buy it, and start reading it that night -that is the nice thing about e-books when you decide to read something, it is right there at your finger tips -like candy bars near a cash register.

    This is a really fun book. It has a little bit of everything -mystery, romance, suspense, art history, and everything you would ever want to know about art forgery but were afraid to ask.

  • Jennifer

    Fact meets fiction meets art history lesson meets… Faustian deal? Who doesn’t like the mystery of an unsolved heist, which to date is still the largest unsolved art heist in history? Throw in the world of struggling young artists, art collectors, art dealers, museum curators, art copyists, glitz and not so much glam and… Forgers. I was interested.

    Claire, an art copyist by day, is a struggling artist working to clear a black mark against her name as a pariah in the Boston art scene. When she get

    Fact meets fiction meets art history lesson meets… Faustian deal? Who doesn’t like the mystery of an unsolved heist, which to date is still the largest unsolved art heist in history? Throw in the world of struggling young artists, art collectors, art dealers, museum curators, art copyists, glitz and not so much glam and… Forgers. I was interested.

    Claire, an art copyist by day, is a struggling artist working to clear a black mark against her name as a pariah in the Boston art scene. When she gets an offer she can’t refuse in the form of her own show in a top-notch art gallery plus a healthy monetary payment in return for forging a well known Degas stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the famous 90s heist, morals be damned. Armed with the belief she’s doing something wrong for all the right reasons, Claire bites. The twist has been well publicized, so there’s no spoiler here, but Claire must decide what she’s going to do when she discovers the “original” Degas she’s presented with to copy from is a forgery.

    There’s a lot for me to like in the book: Shapiro does her “facts” very well. I know next to absolutely nothing about art. I found the parts about techniques, methods, and Degas’ work one of the most intriguing aspects of the book. I can honestly say I learned something new. Perhaps I am a bit hesitant to believe that Claire could pull off a forgery (err, a copy of a copy) that fools the most trained eye just from reading on the internet. It’s almost as unbelievable as me building a nuclear bomb from blueprints found on the world wide web. As Shapiro states in her afterword, the methods that she discusses are, in fact, acceptable methods of recreating period pieces. There is no mistake that Shapiro has done her homework – and probably not all on the internet.

    Even when Shapiro shifts to “fiction,” it’s believable fiction.

    I’m grateful for Shapiro telling me exactly what was real and what was fabricated in her afterword. I really wouldn’t have known otherwise.

    I enjoyed the descriptions of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (and the Boston setting itself, for that matter) the best. Isabella and her museum reminded me of Houston’s own Ima Hogg (really – try to say

    without grinning). Ima was a philanthropist and lover of arts who converted her home, Bayou Bend, into her own personal museum showcasing American furnishings, silver, ceramics, and paintings – and acres and acres of beyoootiful gardens. Maybe Ima would have given Isabella a run for her money.

    There were a few things for me not to like: Some characters fell flat like the crowd at Jake’s, but I could see why Shapiro felt no need to develop them in too much greater detail. I just wanted to know more about them. Claire plays superwoman: A talented painter, certified copyist, Degas expert, prison volunteer, with an eye trained well enough to spot forgeries. And of course, she has to turn up her sleuthing skills to figure out where the original Degas painting was hidden and successfully find it. Then we all get our predictable romantic interest, plot twist, and happy ending.

    “We see what we want to see.” All in all, I was satisfied. This was a great, quick read about subject matter I knew little about and yet the story was accessible and not over my head.

  • Carol

    Reader know thyself and most of the time I do.

    has been on my list probably since the day it hit the shelves. Am I glad I finally picked it up and read it? You bet!

    Mystery, intrigue, romance, history, art, there's something for everyone here. The foundation of the story is based on the 1990 theft of thirteen paintings from The Isabella Gardner Museum. Barbara Shapiro paints a tale of the who, why, what to explore a plausible explanation regarding one of the most famous art pieces

    Reader know thyself and most of the time I do.

    has been on my list probably since the day it hit the shelves. Am I glad I finally picked it up and read it? You bet!

    Mystery, intrigue, romance, history, art, there's something for everyone here. The foundation of the story is based on the 1990 theft of thirteen paintings from The Isabella Gardner Museum. Barbara Shapiro paints a tale of the who, why, what to explore a plausible explanation regarding one of the most famous art pieces gone missing that day; a Degas. In the story the stolen painting is a fictional work by the famous artist named

    . Claire Roth, an artist and reproductionist makes a deal to forge the stolen painting.

    It's a very interesting story indeed. It left me craving more knowledge of the techniques described in the forgery, Isabella Gardner, the museum itself and the great artists.

    The real heist has been in the news of late and seems to have ties to my own state Connecticut, making this the perfect time to explore the facts and fiction of the case.

    There are many excellent reviews here and in the usual places. I won't bore you with more of my thoughts except to say I really enjoyed the book. Tense is places, enough mystery, characters that were vivid and that I liked, this was a fine read for me.

  • Jodi

    Sorry, could not care if Claire was successful or not. I know we were supposed to be sympathetic toward her, why else for the youth prison volunteerism, but she was too untrustworthy. When I read it, it appeared as if she knew all along that she was making a forgery so that Aidan could sell it as the original but by the end of the book she had miraculously convinced herself that all she was doing was making a copy of a copy and that isn’t a crime. Of course she had her penance of never knowing i

    Sorry, could not care if Claire was successful or not. I know we were supposed to be sympathetic toward her, why else for the youth prison volunteerism, but she was too untrustworthy. When I read it, it appeared as if she knew all along that she was making a forgery so that Aidan could sell it as the original but by the end of the book she had miraculously convinced herself that all she was doing was making a copy of a copy and that isn’t a crime. Of course she had her penance of never knowing if her paintings are selling because of her talent or her notoriety? Really? Tough break for a felon.

    Few too many loopholes in the story, and the devotion of her friends seemed unfounded (most I could glean-- the men liked her because she was attractive—although Rik was thrown in as a gay man). Oh, and I almost giggled each time Aidan’s finger was in jeopardy.

    Did like the art background, the explanation of techniques and the premise. Just couldn’t care if Claire was thrown in jail or not.

  • Anmiryam

    The best parts were the tidbits about the process of forging an old master painting. While the writing is never bad, it's bland. Lackluster prose really inhibits the narrative voice of Claire, the forger of the title, who never comes to life on the page. Her naïveté after having been burned once by a man, only to let it happen again is astonishing, yet we never understand why she seems to be so easy to dupe. On top of the her unexciting narrative tone, Shapiro includes an ongoing correspondence

    The best parts were the tidbits about the process of forging an old master painting. While the writing is never bad, it's bland. Lackluster prose really inhibits the narrative voice of Claire, the forger of the title, who never comes to life on the page. Her naïveté after having been burned once by a man, only to let it happen again is astonishing, yet we never understand why she seems to be so easy to dupe. On top of the her unexciting narrative tone, Shapiro includes an ongoing correspondence between the collector Isabella Stewart Gardner and her niece which is both stylistically unconvincing and a cheap trick -- the letters themselves are available to the reader, but are presumed to have been destroyed in the fictional universe they are meant to illuminate.

    Most readers will know the conclusion long before Claire and the obtuse museum officials (the 1990 Gardner museum robbery seems to have done little to increase the saavy of the members of the Boston and New York art scene on display here). I have a couple of books about Han van Meegeren waiting for me back in Pennsylvania, which I expect will prove to be far more thrilling than this dull 'thriller'.

  • Katie

    My predominant emotion while reading this book was irritation and I became much more interested in why it was irritating me so much than I was in the novel itself. I suppose principally because I thought it was going to be much more literary – a novel that creates the feeling that the characters are generating the plot rather than a novel whose plot creates the characters.

    I’ve just looked at other reviews of this book and nearly everyone praises the research. I think what they mean though is si

    My predominant emotion while reading this book was irritation and I became much more interested in why it was irritating me so much than I was in the novel itself. I suppose principally because I thought it was going to be much more literary – a novel that creates the feeling that the characters are generating the plot rather than a novel whose plot creates the characters.

    I’ve just looked at other reviews of this book and nearly everyone praises the research. I think what they mean though is simply that she told the story of Han van Meegeren. I first came across his story on the excellent BBC series Fake or Fortune and it’s a fabulous intriguing story. He was a master forger who had an almost foolproof technique of copying old masters. He might never have been discovered had it not been for the war. When the Dutch government found out he had sold a Vermeer, a national treasure, to the Nazis he was tried for treason. Therefore he had to prove to the court that he himself painted the picture.

    What the author gives us is a kind of chick lit version of Van Meegeren.

    There’s a suggestion this novel asks the question, what are the moral implications of forgery in a world where everyone sees what they want to see? That’s a fascinating question. Unfortunately the novel never really addresses it. It’s too busy trying to sell its film rights. But if you want to read a serious, well-crafted novel about an art forger I’d recommend


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