A year and a half ago I read The Forger's Spell by Edward Dolnick. I'd just visited Atlanta's High Museum of Art's Dutch painters exhibit. I loved the exhibit, and the highlight was seeing the real "Girl with a Pearl Earring" as the last painting in the exhibit. I had built the book up and was so excited to read it, but was disappointed.
The Forger's Spell was a let down. Only a few parts interested me as a person who enjoys art but can only draw stick figures (my recent visit to a BYOB and paint-your-own-canvas thing produced a piece I'm not sure is worth hanging in my house).
Fast forward to this summer. I borrowed The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro from a friend, and this book has made up for the other in a sense. The book begins 25 years after the robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston (right about now). A talented painter named Claire has been trying to make it as an artist and win back a good reputation after accusations of a forging a painting a few years before. To earn money to supplement her own original works, Claire is paid to paint copies of famous paintings sold as fakes online by a large retailer. When she's approached by a trusted friend from the art world with a secret project with a large paycheck, Claire struggles to make a decision that's ethical and true to herself.
While I'd still be interested to read an interesting nonfiction book about the underground world of forging the works of famous artists, and the theft at the Gardner Museum, I enjoyed this book. The Art Forger was fun fiction, and was just the right amount of art for a person like me with good pacing and a character I could understand.
It's an interesting time to be reading a book like The Art Forger, as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the U.S. Department of Justice have just released new information on the heist this month. The two men who stole some of the world's most valuable paintings are now confirmed dead, though their names haven't been released. Now the investigation to locate those paintings continues.
Here's hoping they catch the thief and someone writes a good book about how they got away with it.