Today being a snow day for me from work and a perfect reading day, I want to share with you two books I recently read. Both by the same author, B.A.Shapiro. I read "the Art Forger" first. I remember trying to read this book a few years ago but could not get into it. Then one day recently I was walking my dog in the neighborhood and stopped to check out a neighbor's "Little Free Library" box and there it was again, so I decided to give it another chance. This time the book grabbed me. It is fiction based on real events used as a spring board to create this interesting story of a young artist trying to make her way but to support herself, paints reproductions of famous Degas paintings for a commercial enterprise. The real event that this story uses is the 1990 heist of 13 paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. None of the paintings have yet to be recovered. In the story, the young woman is brought a painting to copy. It is supposed to be a Degas that she recognizes as being one of the paintings stolen in this heist. I don't want to give the story away but she obviously has a moral dilemma on her hands. This author goes into some detail on the tools used and how someone, a forger perhaps?, goes about replicating old paintings. I found this part particularly fascinating. The story is well told, well documented, and I highly recommend it to those who like art, history and just a plan good contemporary story.
The second book just came out and is called "The Muralist." Again, based on true events with a fictitious main character. This time the story takes place in and around 1940 in NYC with world famous artists part of the fictionalized story. The fictional main character is a Jewish French woman born and mostly raised in the USA. She is working for the WPA painting murals with Lee Krasner (before she became well known as an abstract expressionist) and included among their friends are Willem deKoenig, Marc Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. Being Jewish and having family in France the main character of course is very concerned about what is going on in Europe. In this story she becomes the missing link from the art that went on before, to the leap to the purely American art form, abstract expressionism. She and Lee Krasner are both studying with Hans Hoffmann and the author goes into what impact he had on both women. I had never heard of Hans Hoffmann before but I must admit I was quite inspired by the authors description of his 'push-pull' theory. Again there are myriad threads in this story which made it for me a fascinating read. Number one, I will read just about anything on WWII and this book delves into the politics of the time and focuses on those politicians who would keep the refugees out. I learned that one particular man, Samuel Breckenridge Long, who single-handedly kept 100's of thousands of Jewish refugees from entering the US and most certainly sent the majority to their death. A timely moral dilemma with what is currently going on with the Middle East. Again, B.A. Shapiro weaves history, art, and a love story together to make an enchanting tale that weeks later I am still cogitating on.
As an encore, I decided to add a third book that I read years ago but is one of those stories that just sticks with you. A little secret about me is that I apprenticed in a bookbinder/book restoration studio for almost two years so I also like stories about books. "People of the Book-a Novel" by Geraldine Brooks is one of the more intriguing stories about a book I have read. I am including the book review from Amazon on this one as I am a bit foggy on the details. I just remember that it follows the book through all its owners over the centuries by the clues left behind in the book. Again, it shows my love of history, art and the human soul.
"Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of
sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an
acclaimed and beloved author. Called "a tour de force"by the San Francisco Chronicle,
this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the
famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript
created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an
Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series
of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing
fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock
its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of
fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics."