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The Art Forger

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  71,531 ratings  ·  6,082 reviews
Don't miss B. A. Shapiro's new novel, The Collector's Apprentice, available now!

“[A] highly entertaining literary thriller about fine art and foolish choices.” —Parade 

“[A] nimble mystery.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Gripping.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Almost twenty-five years after the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—still the largest unsolv
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 21st 2013 by Algonquin Books (first published October 23rd 2012)
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Sylvia Dugan I started reading it, but found the main character to be too shallow and not very believable. I finally decided to stop reading it after the first 50+…moreI started reading it, but found the main character to be too shallow and not very believable. I finally decided to stop reading it after the first 50+ pages, too many other good books to read.(less)
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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3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  71,531 ratings  ·  6,082 reviews

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Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: friends who enjoy reading about art
Recommended to ~☆~Autumn♥♥ by: review on goodreads
I enjoyed this so much that I will have to read it again sometime. I also need to get more of her books.
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 carr ...more
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
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 28, 2016 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!
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
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 re ...more
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
Lance Charnes
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. What a great read!
Clare Roth is an artist who ekes out a living making copies of Degas paintings and other masterpieces while she struggles to live down a mistake from her past. She enters into a complicated agreement with a powerful gallery owner to forge a stolen Degas painting in return for a show at his gallery. Things take a turn when she suspects that this stolen "masterpiece" is also a forgery.

The book alternates between the present time and the past when the painting was bei
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
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
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from_library
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
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Paula Kalin
The mystery was easy to figure out. A light book without any depth.
Mary Ronan Drew
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry H
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette
  • Cascade
  • Rodin's Lover
  • A Nearly Perfect Copy
  • Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet
  • Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists
  • Leaving Van Gogh
  • Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft
  • Lisette's List
  • American Ghost
  • I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Forger
  • Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece
  • The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures
  • The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren
  • The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece
  • Isaac's Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland
  • Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice
  • I Am Madame X
AKA B. A. Shapiro and Barbara Shapiro.

I am the author of six novels (The Art Forger, The Safe Room, Blind Spot, See No Evil, Blameless and Shattered Echoes), four screenplays (Blind Spot, The Lost Coven, Borderline and Shattered Echoes) and the non-fiction book, The Big Squeeze. In my previous career incarnations, I have directed research projects for a residential substance abuse facility, worked
“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.” 11 likes
“So many good uses for ill-begotten gains” 7 likes
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