Isabella Stewart Gardner, art collector and philanthropist, founded a museum of international art in Boston. On March 18, 1990 a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered this Museum and stole 13 works of art. This true story is the catalyst for the plot in this art crime novel “The Art Forger.”
The novel’s heroine Claire Roth is a talented artist, with a question punctuating her past. Now she makes a living working as a reproduction artist for an online company. She aspires to artistic greatness in her own right, with her own paintings.
This novel focuses on a fictitious fifth version of “After the Bath” by Edgar Degas, as if it was included with the stolen five works on paper by the Impressionist artist. The museum theft has never been solved, the mystery continues, and the precious works have never been recovered. What if one of the genuine, stolen pieces was delivered to your doorstep, and as a reproduction artist you have the opportunity to get the original returned to the museum? Claire Roth finds herself in this position. Does the end justify the means? When is a reproduction a forgery? Do good intentions make a difference? And what motivates the people involved? Is there trust among thieves?
This author is masterful in keeping the pace exciting throughout this crime mystery. At the same time, she artfully blends extensive research into the story with revealing insights of art history, and interesting techniques on how forgeries are done. Suspense builds as we learn about how forgeries are discovered, or missed. The chase to the original Degas includes perilous hurdles and unexpected twists that are full of surprises. The characters are all fully developed and intriguing. The author’s vivid language certainly paints the picture, as the heroine wields the brush. You feel the passion and see the images described, as if they are live before you. Your art interest will be inspired by this book, especially in Degas’ work, and you’ll feel a thirst to learn more. The final reveal resonates with the tense conflict there is between the grandeur of an artist’s vision, colliding with the ambition of fanatic passion.
The Gardner Museum continues to actively investigate any and all leads related to the theft. The focus of the investigation today is on the return of the artworks. A $5 million reward is offered for information leading to the recovery of these works in good condition.
Thereby hangs a tale . . .
— By Wendy Kendall
Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. She’s enjoyed living in Edmonds for over 20 years. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.