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The Art Forger

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  49,448 Ratings  ·  4,946 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Algonquin Books (first published 2012)
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Susan Kane Felt like an airport read to me although I enjoyed the observations
about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Becky Those kind of questions are why the author wrote the book and we read it. Continue reading and you will discover the answers to your questions. If we…moreThose kind of questions are why the author wrote the book and we read it. Continue reading and you will discover the answers to your questions. If we answer those questions for you, it will spoil the reading.(less)

Community Reviews

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Dec 16, 2013 Harry rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries-art
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 ...more
Sep 04, 2016 Katie rated it it was ok
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
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
Jul 15, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
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
May 17, 2013 Jodi rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Jun 30, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer by: Random GR find - recommended by MBTB staff as well

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
May 02, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2013 Anmiryam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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, ...more
Feb 28, 2015 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aug 24, 2016 Carlos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Lance Charnes
Sep 06, 2013 Lance Charnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who like to mix culture with their crime
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
Susan Johnson
Dec 14, 2012 Susan Johnson rated it it was ok
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
Oct 20, 2015 Jeanette rated it liked it
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.
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
Sara Steger
Dec 03, 2015 Sara Steger rated it liked it
Recommends it for: mystery fans and art world lovers
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 ...more
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
Jul 05, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a 3.5 star read for me. The beginning drug along a bit, the characters were so-so, and artwork is something I know little to nothing about. Then, the storyline picked up and I quickly became engaged in it. I really enjoyed the backstory of the painting and the letters from Belle Gardner were interesting. The author did a good job of writing about the more technical elements of painting without it being boring for non-artistic readers (like me). It took a bit, but I did warm up to the ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
May 08, 2013 Mary Ronan Drew rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2014 Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-bookpage
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
Jan 29, 2016 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2013 Annie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It took almost half the book to finally focus on the primary plot and that's when the story became more involving and satisfying, though I never had much connection with any of the characters (they were basically flat and predictable).

The most engaging things here were the information about art forgery and the aspects of art history that were the center of the story. I think the author did a good job of weaving together her research and her fictionalization.

I have to say -- again and again -- th
Dec 19, 2012 Ariel rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-fiction
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 ...more
Larry Hoffer
Nov 23, 2012 Larry Hoffer rated it it was amazing
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, creating perfect copies of famous art masterpieces, but she dreams of en
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 as their Degas specialist, copying his paintings for wealthy buyers. She'
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
Christopher Hicks
May 28, 2014 Christopher Hicks rated it really liked it
At first I dreaded reading this book, it is a selection for my book club. The first 80 pages kind of dragged to me, then I couldn't put it down. The twists in the plot fascinated me. I did enjoy the letters from Belle to her niece best of all. The main character, Claire got on my nerves A lot and the art lingo on how to forge a painting was a bit much. All in all, I enjoyed it and am glad I read it.
Una Tiers
Jun 19, 2015 Una Tiers rated it liked it
An incredible beginning is marred with repetition of clues. Still, the book had some terrific language and the dialogue was great.
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is one of my all-time favorite places on the planet. It's this funky, twisty, non-traditional art museum, where pieces crowd the walls in a random mish-mosh, without placards, placed there by Isabella herself. In 1990, thirteen pieces of art were stolen from the museum in what is now the largest unsolved art heist in history. Beautifully and chillingly, the museum has the empty frames still hanging on the walls.

Shaprio's novel merges that historical fact with
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  • Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
  • The Painted Girls
  • The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft
  • Cascade
  • The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Bloch-Bauer
  • Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists
  • The Stockholm Octavo
  • Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft
  • The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century
  • Stealing Mona Lisa
  • A Nearly Perfect Copy
  • Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper
  • Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum
  • Leonardo and the Last Supper
  • Sutton
  • Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece
  • The Ruins of Lace
  • Leaving Van Gogh
B.A. Shapiro is the award-wining, NYT bestselling author of THE MURALIST and THE ART FORGER, both stories of art, mystery and history with a bit of romance thrown in.

She's also written five suspense novels -- THE SAFE ROOM, BLIND SPOT, SEE NO EVIL, BLAMELESS and SHATTERED ECHOES -- four screenplays and the nonfiction book, THE BIG SQUEEZE.

In her previous career incarnations, she directed researc
More about B.A. Shapiro...

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“So many good uses for ill-begotten gains” 7 likes
“Did you ever hear of cognitive dissonance?” she asked. “No.” “Basically, it’s a theory that people subconsciously reinterpret their motives and actions in a way that makes them feel better about themselves afterward. And then they start to believe that the basis of the reinterpretation is also true.” 5 likes
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