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On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today 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. Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today 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. Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner—is delivered to Claire's studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery. Claire's search for the truth about the painting's origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro's razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. it's a dazzling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas.


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On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today 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. Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today 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. Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner—is delivered to Claire's studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery. Claire's search for the truth about the painting's origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro's razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. it's a dazzling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas.

30 review for The Art Forger

  1. 4 out of 5

    Harry

    I'll make a confession right off the bat: I didn't give The Art Forger 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 The Art Forger 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 Francis does with horses and Dunning 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 Dutch compatriot, 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    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 The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

  3. 4 out of 5

    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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    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'.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    This book is not my usual cup of tea, but the impending holidays have a way of getting me out of my usual zone (including sampling tea I wouldn’t normally drink due to an Advent tea calendar) to indulge in a fast-paced, page-turning read. What I liked most about the novel was learning of the fascinating, time-consuming (along with some shortcuts) techniques an artist of oil paintings (and a forger of them) uses: it’s not just drawing on the canvas and then painting over the sketch, though I’m no This book is not my usual cup of tea, but the impending holidays have a way of getting me out of my usual zone (including sampling tea I wouldn’t normally drink due to an Advent tea calendar) to indulge in a fast-paced, page-turning read. What I liked most about the novel was learning of the fascinating, time-consuming (along with some shortcuts) techniques an artist of oil paintings (and a forger of them) uses: it’s not just drawing on the canvas and then painting over the sketch, though I’m not sure this narrator was the right vehicle for so much knowledge and talent: I suppose she’s some sort of artistic as well as detective genius. The Boston setting was a plus, since I visited there just a few months ago, including a day at MFA (Museum of Fine Arts), which is described in evocative detail during one narratorial visit. Described in even more loving detail is the Gardner Museum, which I didn’t have time to visit (and I so wish I had). The ending felt anticlimactic. I realize I am perhaps being too critical, as well as contradictory, but I either wanted one more (fictional) letter or perhaps no letters at all, since I’m not sure the tone of them rang true from an aunt who has robbed her niece of happiness—and I don’t think that was their point. The novel is billed as a ‘literary’ thriller and while not of the same order as What I Loved or The Goldfinch, it’s still an interesting glimpse into the art world, even appealing once to my childhood self who loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. And those who found The Goldfinch overwritten (I didn’t) may appreciate Shapiro’s more matter-of-fact (that is, plot-over-character) style.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Reader know thyself and most of the time I do. The Art Forger 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. The Art Forger 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 After the Bath. 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    ~☆~Autumn♥♥

    I enjoyed this so much that I will have to read it again sometime. I also need to get more of her books.

  10. 5 out of 5

    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. (view spoiler)[There is no After the Bath part five?? Painted by a fictional forger? The fictional but plausible Isabella/Degas sub-plot was also a fun addition. (hide spoiler)] 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 that 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vonia

    I loved that I recognized many of the locations mentioned here, like The Back Bay, The South End, Newbury Street, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, The Museum Of Modern Art, of course the Isabella Stewart-Gardner Museum. I have actually long held a little-known fascination with the Gardner heist, primarily because of the idea that her will induces the museum board to leave empty frames in their place, even decades after the only unsolved large-scale art heist. It is unsettling, moving, eye-opening, a I loved that I recognized many of the locations mentioned here, like The Back Bay, The South End, Newbury Street, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, The Museum Of Modern Art, of course the Isabella Stewart-Gardner Museum. I have actually long held a little-known fascination with the Gardner heist, primarily because of the idea that her will induces the museum board to leave empty frames in their place, even decades after the only unsolved large-scale art heist. It is unsettling, moving, eye-opening, and an entire mix of feelings to stand in front of these empty frames, something that could not have been created in any other situation. Something I am sure Isabella Gardner never could have foreseen when she wrote her will that way, but, somehow, based on what I have read about her character, I am sure it is exactly the way she would have loved it to be. One might guess Shapiro's background is in the arts, but, no, she simply has done her research. The detailed painting techniques Claire Roth, the protagonist, uses for her side commissions for "Reproductions.com" (from the stripping to the layers to the baking), the methods of detection used by Claire herself as well as the authorities (Stretcher bars, frames, paint fissures, paint stroke directions, but mostly a lot of experience and/or intuition), the way characters interact in the fine art world, the real-life characters John Myatt, Ely Sakhai, Han Van Meegeren (These characters each have amazing stories in their own right, the latter having become so masterful at reproducing Dutch paintings that, in order to evade prosecution, he had to confess a painting he had sold to The Nazis was one he had painted. As it was so good that they still did not believe him, experts watched as he went through the entire process, reproducing the painting again.) I do greatly appreciate Impressionism, even "Realism", as art historians and Degas himself has been quoted to categorize his work. I have always been a fan of Degas' Dancer Series in particular. The suspense level was about right. Although I do feel there was a little too much DaVinci Code. By this I mean a little overwhelming , unnecessary side plots, information, etcetera. In all, a great read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I confess to being wrapped up in the reading of this book and particularly the art of art forgery Shapiro unmasks. I have often wondered why a painting that has hung for hundreds of years on museum walls and been praised for its style and beauty is not just as valuable and just as precious when it is discovered that it was not painted by one of the greats but by his apprentice. Doesn't the art remain the same. Isn't it just as valuable as art even if it was painted by an unknown? We seem to carr I confess to being wrapped up in the reading of this book and particularly the art of art forgery Shapiro unmasks. I have often wondered why a painting that has hung for hundreds of years on museum walls and been praised for its style and beauty is not just as valuable and just as precious when it is discovered that it was not painted by one of the greats but by his apprentice. Doesn't the art remain the same. Isn't it just as valuable as art even if it was painted by an unknown? We seem to carry our love of celebrity back into the ages before us and it is the name that sells. Shapiro's main character, Claire, is a bit conflicted on the morality issues and a little heavy on excusing her own part in the disasters in which she becomes involved, but she is very human in wanting to be recognized for her talents. She is so susceptible to praise from what she considers the right sources and she is all too willing to compromise where she knows she should not in order to obtain the recognition that eludes her. In the process, she becomes entangled and must untangle a hell of a gordian knot. Even though it seemed obvious to me what the ultimate solution would be to the "mystery" of the painting, it was a fun ride to the end. Shapiro gets high marks from me for her research and attention to detail. She is writing about a complicated subject in the art field and she obviously knows her stuff. The details of Belle Gardner's invented life fit seamlessly into what is known to be true about her, and the personality of Edgar Degas is also in keeping with his known traits. I was completely fascinated by the procedure Claire uses to produce her copies and found none of the explanations dry or over-written. Some books are great, some are worthless, and some fall right in-between. This is one of the later. It isn't erudite, but it does have some points to make about human nature and Faustian deals. I will confess to being pretty upset when my Kindle battery expired and I had to wait overnight before reading the last four chapters and putting the story to bed. I have had some fairly heavy reading of late, and this was just plain, unadulterated fun.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    It was a love/hate relationship; a mixed bag reading experience. "Without light nothing can be seen. And with it, still so much is unobserved. I enjoyed the art techniques described succinctly - painting, curing, aging, framing. Quite fascinating! Time, talent, and eye-for-details. Art history, art appreciation, collector's obsessions, and the Gardner Art Museum heist were other founding plot-drivers that I found fascinating, along with literary elements. The mystery, though thoroughly interestin It was a love/hate relationship; a mixed bag reading experience. "Without light nothing can be seen. And with it, still so much is unobserved. I enjoyed the art techniques described succinctly - painting, curing, aging, framing. Quite fascinating! Time, talent, and eye-for-details. Art history, art appreciation, collector's obsessions, and the Gardner Art Museum heist were other founding plot-drivers that I found fascinating, along with literary elements. The mystery, though thoroughly interesting and clever, wasn't anywhere close to "thrilling" as claimed on the dust jacket. In all fairness, most literary mystery novels typically aren't. They are slow burners, methodical and layered in pace and plot. And in this particular case, somewhat predictable and caricature stereotypical. I could visualize the characters and setting quite clearly, but there wasn't anything distinctive about the lot that set them apart from similar works of fiction. As for the characters, there just wasn't anyone I connected with or found likeable. The one exception was Madame Gardner. I did enjoy her letters to her niece. I'm not sure why, but she reminded me of the Unsinkable Molly Brown - but with a bit more class. Lastly, the off-color language and loose morals and sketchy ethics left a pungent scent in the air. A scent that bitters and detracts. And that, along with the above mentioned disconnects, was the deciding factor to round down - not up. 3.5 THREE *** Literary Mystery: Contemporary in Voice, Historical in Reach, Slow Burning *** STARS

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    Based on a real life, still unsolved art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, The Art Forger manages to include more details about brush strokes and forgery techniques than I knew existed in a gripping story of artistic obsession. Claire Roth is a struggling young artist, blacklisted by the art establishment for a perceived crime against one of their darlings. She pays her bills by copying famous works of art for an above board online retailer. Then she makes a devil's bargain Based on a real life, still unsolved art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, The Art Forger manages to include more details about brush strokes and forgery techniques than I knew existed in a gripping story of artistic obsession. Claire Roth is a struggling young artist, blacklisted by the art establishment for a perceived crime against one of their darlings. She pays her bills by copying famous works of art for an above board online retailer. Then she makes a devil's bargain by agreeing to forge one of the stolen paintings, a Degas masterpiece, in exchange for having her own work shown in a prestigious gallery owned by Aiden Markel, a man she has feelings for. Claire knows what she is doing is illegal, but like many characters in the book whose motivations complicate the plot, Claire for a time allows herself to be convinced that what she personally wants supports greater good. When Claire comes to suspect that something is not quite right about the painting Aiden has given her to copy, her investigation leads her to research the museum where the painting was hung, the museum's colorful, world traveling founder Isabella Gardner, and the life and techniques of the artist Degas. Interspersed between chapters told from Claire's point of view are lively nineteenth century letters about Degas and the European art scene of the time from Isabella Gardner to her beloved niece.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    I loved this book, all the art references and the art processes explained here are catnip to me. I love museums and art, therefore any book mixing both its going to my criteria. The only reason I'm not giving it 5 stars is because I hated the main characther personality , (so much so that I was rooting for her to get in trouble) but I guess all is well that ends well!!! :) I am completely satisfied with this book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This is the kind of mystery that would not make a good movie, but is an intirguing tale for a book. This taught me much about art- oil painting, especially, that I did not know. Next time I go to the Art Institute I sure will be looking closely at those Impressionists. LOL! Enjoyable tale filled with excellent research. The plot, to me, was rather discernable, early on.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    "We can only talk about the bad forgeries, the ones that have not been detected. The good ones are still hanging on museum walls." The instructor backed this up with a New York Times estimate that 40 percent of all the artworks presented for sale in any given years are forgeries. I assumed this was completely overblown. I don't now. There's not too much that can be said about this story without coming up against spoilers. Even the publisher's blurb says more than necessary, but, then, I often fee "We can only talk about the bad forgeries, the ones that have not been detected. The good ones are still hanging on museum walls." The instructor backed this up with a New York Times estimate that 40 percent of all the artworks presented for sale in any given years are forgeries. I assumed this was completely overblown. I don't now. There's not too much that can be said about this story without coming up against spoilers. Even the publisher's blurb says more than necessary, but, then, I often feel that way. I simply enjoyed the story, the pace, and the action. And, the content. I seem to have an interest in the sub-genre of art forgery, even though, all told, I can think of just two (or three) other books I've read in that category. I read and loved What's Bred in the Bone, Book No. 2 of The Cornish Trilogy: The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, and The Lyre of Orpheus, around 20 years ago. The other example of this genre is a mystery or detective novel I read 30 or 40 years ago. I read two books by the same author but can't remember if they were both about art forgery. I think that the author's last name was "Ramos," but that could have been the protagonist's name, and a short search with Google and Amazon just now tells me I don't want to go any further down that rabbit hole. Anyway, here's some of the fun part of this book: I rummage through a few drawers, find my jewelers' magnifying loupe, and put it to my eye. Yes, at this magnification, some of the brushstrokes are visible, but not all that many. If I were dealing with any of Degas' later paintings, or those of his buddies Manet, Pissarro, or Cassatt, there would be plenty to see, as these artists often put down broad thick strokes of paint. But when ten or twenty layers of glazing are applied, the effect is one of smoothness and translucence. And that's what I have here. I sift through the photographs until I find one where the strokes are close in size to those in Bath. I hold it up against the painting, move it around, look for similarities and differences. There's not much to compare. Then I notice that in the center of the image a few brushstrokes are visible. I cut the photo in half and press the edge against a spot in the lower left-hand corner.... I put the jewelers' loupe to my eye and shift back and forth between the photo and the painting. Although I'd need two paintings side-by-side to be certain, the two do appear to be the work of the same man. Still I'm not satisfied. ...All the while, listening to her well-trained gut! At the beginning of the book the protagonist came across in stick-figure terms which made me think, briefly, of Gone Girl, but the content is better and the protagonist was having some astute observations along the way. Notably, the author does not write that stick-figure way when flashing back to a 19th century character, so you know she's not limited to that mode. (view spoiler)[Late in the book, this main character's lawyer describes her to her face as "a beautiful woman." In retrospect you know this was the case all along, but it wasn't made overt. The effect is a little like when the main character in The Shipping News is finally revealed to himself as a virile male. A little. This isn't genius writing like The Shipping News, but there's more to the characterization than meets the eye initially. (hide spoiler)] This is a pleasurable and satisfying read that fairly flew along after the first 80 or 90 pages that it took the author to overcome my resistance. Related link: I forgot to add that while I was reading this novel, what should I come across in The New Yorker but this exciting true story of a forgery of Galileo's Sidirius Nuncius, "Starry Messenger." Galileo launched his career with a pamphlet illustrating and describing Jupiter and its moons. About 150 are extant, but nothing like this supposed one-of-a-kind example. It used to be thought nobody forged rare books because forging paintings is so much easier. Not any more. The New Yorker locks most of its articles so if you are interested, get hold of the Dec. 16, 2013 issue.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    This was the first book I read from the cache I purchased at the Miami International Book Fair. I wish I had a chance to read it before hearing B.A. Shapiro speak. After reading The Art Forger I am a fan. B.A. Shapiro gave a talk about her writing process with M.J. Rose, author of The book of Lost Fragrances, another novel I grabbed. I don't know if they were put on a panel together because they both go by their initials but it seemed a good pairing and their discussion was very insightful. I re This was the first book I read from the cache I purchased at the Miami International Book Fair. I wish I had a chance to read it before hearing B.A. Shapiro speak. After reading The Art Forger I am a fan. B.A. Shapiro gave a talk about her writing process with M.J. Rose, author of The book of Lost Fragrances, another novel I grabbed. I don't know if they were put on a panel together because they both go by their initials but it seemed a good pairing and their discussion was very insightful. I remember B.A. Shapiro revealing that she writes in a highly successful group that consists of other published authors. She also mentioned that her next book would also be set in the art world. I really enjoyed getting to hear both authors speak and will treasure my signed copies of their novels. Okay, on to the review. Claire Roth is a disgraced artist barely making ends meet when we meet her. A disastrous affair of the heart has left her name mud in the art world. She spends her time painting reproductions of famous paintings for a company and skating by on very little money or goodwill. All of her past mistakes have make her very vunerable when Aiden Markel comes knocking with an offer she can't refuse. She will receive a large sum of money plus her own gallery show if she agrees to paint a reproduction of a a famous Degas painting. The catch is that is one of the paintings stolen during the notorious and unsolved Isabella Stuart Gardner heist. Markel holds the keys to everything Claire has ever wanted. All she has to do is paint and not ask any questions. The story moves deftly back and forth between the period where Claire is in love with Isaac who ruins her life, the present, and letters Isabella Stuart Gardner writes to her niece from her art purchasing trip. All three stories tie togther in a wonderful way and I kept turning the pages with anticpation until the end. B.A. Shapiro weaves an engaging tale that combines fictional aspects of the story with factual ones. The Isabelle Stuart Gardner heist is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the art world. This is a fictional imagining of part of that story. After reading this story I would love to get to visit the Gardner museum in person one day. Although the mystery may never be solved as to who stole the paintings from the Gardner we can all imerse ourselves in the art world with the irrestible characters B.A. Shapiro has created.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    This review is from: The Art Forger: A Novel (Hardcover) Claire Roth is an artist that has been involved in an art work scandal and has found herself blackballed in the artistic world. She is forced into reproducing famous paintings to make a living.This career choice gives her an opportunity to salvage her reputation when she is offered the chance to copy a stolen Degas painting. The story also intertwines the story of the founding of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and the place This review is from: The Art Forger: A Novel (Hardcover) Claire Roth is an artist that has been involved in an art work scandal and has found herself blackballed in the artistic world. She is forced into reproducing famous paintings to make a living.This career choice gives her an opportunity to salvage her reputation when she is offered the chance to copy a stolen Degas painting. The story also intertwines the story of the founding of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and the place the stolen Degas was exhibited. Claire is throughly involved in the orginal scandal and in the decision to copy the Degas picture. No one holds a gun to her head. In fact, she created the scenario for the original scandal. Still she envisions herself as a victim and spends too much time feeling sorry for herself. She's not sympathetic and, frankly, she felt like nails on a chalkboard. Annoying. I think this is why the book does not succeed. You are never in Claire's corner. You never feel sorry for her as she created her own mess. She's not someone you care about what happens to her. I did not care that she got a new couch which takes up way too much page space. It was interesting to learn how paintings are forged. It is shocking to learn how many frauds are hanging in international museums. It was also interesting to read how the art world works. Still this book features such an unlikable protaganist that I would never recommend it to anyone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lance Charnes

    The Art Forger is many things: a mystery, an art procedural, a historical quasi-romance, inside-the-art-world dish, and the portrait of a young artist involved in things she ought not to be. You could also consider it a caper story and not be far wrong. Claire Roth is a Boston artist in bad odor with the art establishment, eking out a living creating reproductions of classic works for an online art mill while her own paintings languish. Her call to adventure comes in the form of a prominent galle The Art Forger is many things: a mystery, an art procedural, a historical quasi-romance, inside-the-art-world dish, and the portrait of a young artist involved in things she ought not to be. You could also consider it a caper story and not be far wrong. Claire Roth is a Boston artist in bad odor with the art establishment, eking out a living creating reproductions of classic works for an online art mill while her own paintings languish. Her call to adventure comes in the form of a prominent gallery owner who offers her a one-woman show in exchange for a tiny favor: create an exact copy of a Degas masterpiece that just happens to have been stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 in the largest theft in American history. That we actually buy this is a tribute to author Shapiro’s skill in setting up Claire’s character and her world. Claire has the seismic temperament you’d expect of a young artist – by turns driven, romantic, flighty, bitter, euphoric and terrified. The tragic incident in her past that’s left her on the outs with the East Coast art establishment also illustrates her bona fides for pulling off this caper. She’s a Degas obsessive, and we feel her joy and awe at having one of the master’s missing gems in her studio. The first time she touches the painting is in spirit a sex scene, the forbidden and the sensual wrapped up in a simple gesture. Likewise, when the job starts going to pieces and the authorities close in, we can sense her rising panic and paranoia in a way entirely consistent with her character. Claire’s narration of the copying process sounds detailed and authentic without becoming a textbook. She details her research at enough length to make it all credible, but you won’t feel like you’ve absorbed the archival mold spores by the end of it. When she discovers that the supposed masterpiece may itself be a forgery, her decision to track down the real painting feels organic. For once we have an amateur detective whose involvement in the case is actually credible. It’s good that Claire is as well-drawn as she is, because she’s on nearly every page of the book. Those pages from which she’s absent are given over to the painting’s backstory as told by Isabella Stewart Gardner (one of the first important female collectors in America) herself. Her flirtation with Degas and the genesis of the painting is revealed through chatty letters supposedly written by Gardner to her favorite niece. While important to the overall plot, these letters are perhaps the weakest part of the book; they often sound too writerly, and you’ll wonder why a woman of Gardner’s station would commit to paper some of the things she tells her niece. You’ll also guess her secret long before the author reveals it to you. It’s a nice device and works okay, but it’s not as compelling as Claire’s story. Claire is periodically attended by a group of arty chums, two of whom become prominent characters: Rik, the snappy gay friend, occupies a useful position in the Gardner Museum, while Mike, a fellow artist, is a handy lawyer. There’s nothing groundbreaking about either of them, but they’re good-enough company and don’t sound any significant false notes. Adrian, the gallery owner, is perhaps a bit too dreamboaty – my mind wandered to Roarke in J.D. Robb’s …in Death series – but at least Claire takes a while to realize her attraction to him. The settings work well, and a few (such as Claire’s studio and Adrian’s gallery) feel realistic and well-observed. The ending is the one major misstep. It’s pure Hollywood, tying up everything over-neatly with way more happiness than the preceding sturm und drang would seem to support. It’s also not as surefooted as what led up to it, as if Claire’s voice is meant for disappointment and can’t properly convey sunniness. Art crime isn’t a subject that often turns up in a mystery. It’s refreshing to be dealing with stakes that don’t involve yet another murder (better, not yet another serial killer). Even though there’s no blood, this isn’t a cozy. The mystery is twisty enough to keep you occupied without feeling like homework. You’ll even learn some stuff. If you’re looking for a break from tough-guy heroes, slimeball villains and dead bodies but still need your crime fix, give The Art Forger a try. Our Heroine’s life is an interesting place to spend a few hours, and you might feel like visiting a museum afterwards.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Terri Lynn

    This book is just so delicious, I wanted to crawl inside it and become a character myself. Twenty-five years earlier, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was robbed of a number of paintings including the Degas "After the Bath". Three years ago, artist Claire Roth allowed an older artist, once her professor and later her lover, make a fool out of her and derail her art career by claiming that a painting she did was his work. Hardly anyone would believe her and thought she wanted to ruin him bec This book is just so delicious, I wanted to crawl inside it and become a character myself. Twenty-five years earlier, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was robbed of a number of paintings including the Degas "After the Bath". Three years ago, artist Claire Roth allowed an older artist, once her professor and later her lover, make a fool out of her and derail her art career by claiming that a painting she did was his work. Hardly anyone would believe her and thought she wanted to ruin him because he returned to his wife (which he did only because of the fraud). He later killed himself. Now Claire, who makes a living making reproductions of great paintings for Reproductions.com is given the chance of a lifetime. Gallery owner Aiden Markel offers seriously big money for her to make a reproduction of the stolen Degas for him to sell and intends to return the original. The thing is- this is NOT the original but also a copy and leads Claire on the trail of mystery and suspense both now and in the days of Isabella Gardner to find the truth. Unfortunately, she winds up getting arrested and grilled by the FBI in the process. This book is really a fun read if you love drawing, painting, and museums as I do. Follow Claire as she reproduces paintings, solves a mystery, and finds a little romance on the way.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John

    I'm going to start with a bit of a spoiler, because I just can't discuss the book without mentioning it: the "forgery" itself blows up in their faces; the more Markel said "there's layers, babe, they can't get to me ..." the more certain I became he would be wrong. What I liked -- The Boston setting is probably the book's strongest feature. Overall, I liked Claire. I get that it was her bad decision to let Isaac have credit for her painting that went on to critical acclaim, but when he didn't leav I'm going to start with a bit of a spoiler, because I just can't discuss the book without mentioning it: the "forgery" itself blows up in their faces; the more Markel said "there's layers, babe, they can't get to me ..." the more certain I became he would be wrong. What I liked -- The Boston setting is probably the book's strongest feature. Overall, I liked Claire. I get that it was her bad decision to let Isaac have credit for her painting that went on to critical acclaim, but when he didn't leave a suicide note saying so, I don't blame her for pursuing the matter. I wasn't wild about the way that she went into it with Markel on a personal level, making her look like a needy ditz. However, I found her "detective" work credible, keeping tension in the story. Frankly, I was impressed that she stood up for what she believed to be true, no matter how unpopular her conviction. I loved the two older female characters quite a bit, as well as the author's having a couple of her professors who had turned on her earlier try to suck up later when Claire's star rose. I also thought the museum director Alana's hostility to Claire was probably well-founded. Perhaps she'd locked in the vibe Claire was giving at the gala, mocking Alana's lack of "fashion sense"? Our heroine can be quite shallow and self-absorbed (although I got the impression she'd be there for her friends if they asked). What did not work -- The recurring bouts of chick-lit. As a bizarre example, she relays that she "became moist" when Markel first kissed her (it may even have just been because he was nearby, I don't have the book to consult), which actually sounded more like something a male writer might say. She goes on and on about her clothes at times, as well as criticizing others' choices. Mee-yow. I'd say at least 25% of the book is outright chicklit, rather than literary fiction; I never really considered it to be a "mystery" as such. Aiden Markel, gallery owner who instigated the forgery. He was just perfect ... too perfect. I was left wondering, "If he's all that, why did he and his wife divorce?" Claire says "he's been divorced 'for a few years'," which I found tough to reconcile with his younger kid being only four when the book opens. It may have been his audiobook voice, but he came off as slimy from the get-go. I did do rather a double-take when Claire described him as wearing a $500 shirt, as I've been in a few high-end, soak-the-suckers emporiums in my day and even those don't go much above $200. I never felt he was in "digital" danger either. On a related note, I found it odd that the business at the gallery went on as usual after his forgery plot went wrong. Her friend Rick was extremely stereotypically gay - all that seemed missing were squeals of "You go, girl!" Ugh. Had she, for example, mentioned that the highly competent artist-attorney was gay, too, that would've helped balance things out. The Gardner letters ... I thought they were okay at first, but grew tired of them. I would've preferred that Claire actually discover a couple of them that directly related to the Degas matter, rather than so many interspersed throughout the book. I hated the juvenile detention art classes, wanting to fast forward through them. They were awkward, serving little purpose, except perhaps as a bit of clunky foreshadowing. On balance I'm glad I read it, though I wouldn't recommend those who are curious ton jump it up in your TBR queues - save it for when you need to kill time, or want something lighter and modern after a bout of nonfiction and/or historical stuff. With one minor quibble, I found the audio narration a very good fit for the story. P. S. The technical details of forgery I found neither fascinating, nor tedious; they were just sort of "there" for me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This is one of the few times I have been driven to read a book by sheer curiosity after reading the back text. Go on and look at it. Go on. I'll wait. Checked it out? Good, isn't it? Historical fiction based on the largest unsolved art heist in history? An artist agreeing to forge a famous painting from the original? And the original might actually *already* be a forgery? Seriously, how can I not read this book? The back text here is a great example of what back text should be: enough to really p This is one of the few times I have been driven to read a book by sheer curiosity after reading the back text. Go on and look at it. Go on. I'll wait. Checked it out? Good, isn't it? Historical fiction based on the largest unsolved art heist in history? An artist agreeing to forge a famous painting from the original? And the original might actually *already* be a forgery? Seriously, how can I not read this book? The back text here is a great example of what back text should be: enough to really pique your interest and make you want to read, without any ridiculous descriptions that make you roll your eyes and turn away. So, does it live up to the back text? Well, I did give it four stars, didn't I? The mystery of what happened to the original isn't hard to figure out, though I didn't actually see it coming because I was so busy enjoying everything else about the story I didn't stop to think about it much. The characters feel real and drive the plot with believable reactions to their situation. There are enough facets of Claire's life to keep things interesting without losing sight of the core story. And the author includes a lot of fascinating detail about how art is made and how the main character can make a forgery.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sterlingcindysu

    One of the best things about Goodreads is keeping a TBR list...that list that gets longer every month and nags at you when you start reading the new hot book instead. It's that nagging (just like a mother's "sit up straight!") that makes you really take a second look at the books you've been meaning to read forever and realize from reviews that you really should. I really liked this book because it shows just how much work it takes to fake a painting. Sure, the masters are great, but I'm startin One of the best things about Goodreads is keeping a TBR list...that list that gets longer every month and nags at you when you start reading the new hot book instead. It's that nagging (just like a mother's "sit up straight!") that makes you really take a second look at the books you've been meaning to read forever and realize from reviews that you really should. I really liked this book because it shows just how much work it takes to fake a painting. Sure, the masters are great, but I'm starting to think it takes more work and talent to copy one, plus the stress of being caught and jail time. I don't know if I'd consider this historical fiction first because Shapiro at the end says she made up some characters that made the story work. So maybe a fiction about artists first and historical information provided to move the story along. As others said, the romantic stories were secondary and frankly I thought the gallery owner was a capital-P Player. So sad that the frames remain empty at the museum! But you can buy a pillow with a variation of "After the Bath".

  25. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    I think she got the (main character Claire Roth) typical artist's neurotic personality down pat. A writer friend once told me that when she walks into a library anywhere in the world, the smell makes her feel instantly at home. It takes my mind a moment to catch up with my body, and I realize I'm feeling dread. If Rik were around he'd say 'I'm getting old here.' Six weeks is a long time. It's long enough to develop headaches, insomnia, digestive issues, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of fea I think she got the (main character Claire Roth) typical artist's neurotic personality down pat. A writer friend once told me that when she walks into a library anywhere in the world, the smell makes her feel instantly at home. It takes my mind a moment to catch up with my body, and I realize I'm feeling dread. If Rik were around he'd say 'I'm getting old here.' Six weeks is a long time. It's long enough to develop headaches, insomnia, digestive issues, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of fear itself, and a host of other psychological problems. I managed to acquire every one, and a few others, while I waited for the verdict from Karen Sinsheimer. Self-diagnosed, of course. By the time she called, I was a complete wreck. Now that I'm on the inside, out of view of the millions of people who could care less about the absence of presence of my soul, I feel somewhat better. No insecurity too obscure. It's been quite a while since I wielded a sponge, and the combination of strong coffee and my need for closure drive me into uncharacteristic tidiness. I shall remind you, sir, that I am in the process of accomplishing many things. Most of which I see no man doing at all. We can only talk about the bad forgeries, the ones that have been detected. The good ones are still hanging on museum walls.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ronan Drew

    On the night of St Patrick's Day in 1990 when the attention of Boston was focused elsewhere, thieves entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and made off with art valued at $500 million, including three Rembrandts, one of only 34 known paintings by Vermeer, and works by Manet and Degas. Because the eccentric Isabella insisted in her will that nothing be changed in the museum (nothing!), the empty frames remain on the walls as a sad reminder of what has been lost. This story, which fascinates On the night of St Patrick's Day in 1990 when the attention of Boston was focused elsewhere, thieves entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and made off with art valued at $500 million, including three Rembrandts, one of only 34 known paintings by Vermeer, and works by Manet and Degas. Because the eccentric Isabella insisted in her will that nothing be changed in the museum (nothing!), the empty frames remain on the walls as a sad reminder of what has been lost. This story, which fascinates the art world still, is at the heart of the 2012 novel by B A Shaprio, The Art Forger. Our heroin, Claire Roth, is a painter who has been blackballed by the art world because of an incident three years earlier that earned her the sobriquet The Great Pretender. The reason she became burdened with this reputation emerges slowly in the course of the novel. While painting her own works (but not selling them), Claire makes her living copying famous paintings for Reproductions.com, a fictional website, and has become an expert in creating what would be called forgeries if an attempt were made to sell them as originals. She is also an expert on Edgar Degas. So when Aidan Markel, owner of Boston's preeminent (fictional) art gallery, arrives at her studio offering to give her a one man show at his gallery and a great deal of money if she will do him a favor she is tempted even when she discovers that the favor is to forge one of the (fictional) paintings stolen from the Gardner. She faces an ethical choice. But she agrees. Watching Claire employ the techniques used by a painter of high-quality reproductions (or forgeries) is engrossing, and the examination in the course of the story of what constitutes truth in art, the development of a relationship between Claire and Aiden, Claire's dilemma as she begins to suspect that the Degas she is copying is itself a forgery keep the pages of this book turning at a brisk clip. The Art Forger should send readers off to visit the Gardner museum, which is near the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and which I visited as a child when my family would make a visit to Boston every July to see the Red Sox play and to visit the MFA, the Gardner, or the Agassiz Museum at Harvard (to see the glass flowers.) From the street the Gardner looks like a not very prepossessing factory; inside is a fairy-land courtyard with palms that reach almost to the four-story glass ceiling, and gallery after gallery of more than a thousand works of art acquired by Mrs Gardner with the help of Bernard Berenson. The museum, by the way, admits for free anyone with the name Isabella and anyone at all on his or her birthday. Mrs Gardner's eccentricity lives on. I first heard about this book in a review by Carol here on Goodreads.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    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 Reproductions.com, creating perfect copies of famous art masterpieces, but she dreams of en 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 Reproductions.com, 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!

  28. 5 out of 5

    P.D.R. Lindsay

    I've a soft spot for stories about art and artists and hoped to enjoy this novel. I did. It was clever, the plot an original twist on so many real artist novels. Based on a real theft from a famous American Art Gallery Shapiro gives us a possible alternative history of Degas and the art theft. It is entirely believable. Clair Roth is a young artist with a past and few sales. She makes money by working for reproductions.com as their Degas specialist, copying his paintings for wealthy buyers. She' I've a soft spot for stories about art and artists and hoped to enjoy this novel. I did. It was clever, the plot an original twist on so many real artist novels. Based on a real theft from a famous American Art Gallery Shapiro gives us a possible alternative history of Degas and the art theft. It is entirely believable. Clair Roth is a young artist with a past and few sales. She makes money by working for reproductions.com as their Degas specialist, copying his paintings for wealthy buyers. She's very good at it, has studied the great forgers' techniques and so temptation comes her way. To say more would give away too much but, needless to say the temptation to do good by doing something shifty soon lands her in trouble and we don't know until the last pages how she will get out of it! It's a 'Can't put it down' book. Well written, fast paced, and really enjoyable. 3D characters, a great sense of place and of young artists' lives make it fascinating reading. The forgery details can all be found on the internet so the author is not doing the art world a disservice but it makes one think twice about buying expensive paintings when so called experts can be so easily fooled. No wonder the buyers want provenance and documentary proof these days! If you like art, mysteries and great writing this is the book for you.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lynda

    B.A. Shapiro's The Art Forger is an exciting art mystery that kept me guessing almost to the end. Claire Roth is the main character who has been living under the shadow of false accusations and the emotional repercussions of the death of her bi-polar, married lover who just happened to be her former professor and the credited artist of a famous painting purchased by MOMA. The tale of the lover and the painting are told in flashbacks while the current drama of Clare's life as an art "reproduction B.A. Shapiro's The Art Forger is an exciting art mystery that kept me guessing almost to the end. Claire Roth is the main character who has been living under the shadow of false accusations and the emotional repercussions of the death of her bi-polar, married lover who just happened to be her former professor and the credited artist of a famous painting purchased by MOMA. The tale of the lover and the painting are told in flashbacks while the current drama of Clare's life as an art "reproduction" expert who specializes in Degas unfolds. Claire is contacted by an old acquaintance to copy a Degas that was stolen in the theft at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum twenty years ago. Is the painting she is "copying" the original or a forgery? I won't spoil this wonderful novel by revealing anything further. To be honest, it took a couple of chapters for me to warm to Clare and her story. At first I found her to be a little too self-involved and the action slow building. However, the author embellishes the plot with wonderful nuggets of art history and detective work that quickly ensnared me and I was trapped right through the last sentence.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    3.5 stars I thought that this was a) historical fiction and b) a mystery. Both those things turned out to be true in part but essentially this was a contemporary literary fiction novel. I think my rating may reflect in part my sense of disappointment about that misconception so I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and round up. However, being from the Boston area, I enjoyed all the local color and I found the information about art very interesting. In particular, seeing the "art scene" i 3.5 stars I thought that this was a) historical fiction and b) a mystery. Both those things turned out to be true in part but essentially this was a contemporary literary fiction novel. I think my rating may reflect in part my sense of disappointment about that misconception so I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and round up. However, being from the Boston area, I enjoyed all the local color and I found the information about art very interesting. In particular, seeing the "art scene" in terms of a business, a way of making a living, was fascinating. I found the historical fiction parts about Isabella Stewart Gardner fun but not completely believable. I also thought that (view spoiler)[Aiden Markel's "big reveal" predictable and it bothered me all along that Claire wasn't more cautious/suspicious. (hide spoiler)]

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