Book Review: The Art Forger

B.A. Shapiro’s book The Art Forger is a fiction story revolving around the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. Claire, a young Boston artist, is asked by a local gallery owner to forge one of the stolen Degas paintings. In return, she’ll get a one-woman show at his distinguished gallery. This could be her only chance to redeem herself and her work since she has been blacklisted in the art community due to an incident with her ex-boyfriend. As she begins the forgery, she suspects that the original painting that she is copying from may also be a forgery.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist happened in 1990 when two men impersonating police officers stole over 500 million dollars worth of art. Thirteen pieces of art were taken, including works from Degas, Manet, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. To this day, it remains unsolved. The FBI is offering a 10 million dollar reward for information about the theft, but no one has come forward even though the statute of limitations has expired. The empty frames are still hanging in the museum as placeholders for the paintings in the hopes that they’ll be returned one day. You can read more about the heist here.

Credit: Emily Wisner 

The Isabella Stewart Gardner theft is a fascinating topic in itself and makes a great foundation for a novel. The Art Forger drops the reader into the center of the art world. Struggling artists, wealthy collectors, and museum curators are all entangled in the politics of the art community. You’ll quickly become attached to the characters and watch them struggle to balance their morals and desire to shape their reputations.

B.A. Shapiro clearly did her research, as is evident in the detailed descriptions of painting and forgery techniques. She shows extensive knowledge of art history, especially pertaining to Degas and impressionist paintings. The research shows in the fictionalized letters written by Isabella Stewart Gardner, which appear throughout the novel and bring even more complexities to the story.

Credit: Emily Wisner 

The book is full of scandal and mystery, and you won’t want to put it down. To enhance your reading experience, you should go the museum if you are able to, so you can picture it while you read. For anyone interested in art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist, or white-collar crime, this is the perfect book.


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