BOOKS CHECKED OUT | By JANET CLAPP
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. Sometimes a picture inspires the creation of a story, as in the following novels about artists and their art.
The Art Forger
By B.A. Shapiro
Painter Claire Roth has been blackballed by the art community because of her role in a scandal. Now she has the opportunity to earn money and have her own show at a prestigious art gallery. All she needs to do is copy a Degas painting that was stolen years ago from the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston. “My heart races. I’m going to have the incredible good fortune of living with a work by Degas, touching it, breathing it in, studying its every last detail, ferreting out the master’s secrets. It’s a great gift. Perhaps the greatest. One that will inform my painting forever. Sweet. Incredibly sweet. Now I really can’t breathe.” The novel’s chapters about the art forgery are interspersed with letters from Isabella Stewart Gardiner, while plot twists keep the reader reading. For a reporter’s take on what really happened in the big theft, check out the new book by Stephen Kurkjian, “Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled off the World’s Greatest Art Heist.”
Girl with a Pearl Earring
By Tracy Chevalier
Sixteen-year-old Griet, the maid in the household of Johannes Vermeer, secretly acts as Vermeer’s assistant grinding colors. In time she becomes a model for one of his paintings. “The painting was like none of his others. It was just of me, of my head and shoulders, with no tables or curtains, no windows or powder-brushes to soften and distract. He had painted me with my eyes wide, the light falling across my face but the left side of me in shadow…. The background was black, making me appear very much alone, although I was clearly looking at someone. I seemed to be waiting for something I did not think would ever happen.” The historical detail of life in the seventeenth century Dutch city of Delft adds color to a beautifully written story.
The Forest Lover
By Susan Vreeland
In this fictional biography of the real Canadian painter Emily Carr, Vreeland depicts British Columbia and the natives that reside there. “In the morning, with her sketch sack slung over her shoulder, she took a walk far down the beach in the mist. Breathing in sea tang, she felt like her mouth and throat were coated with brine. She looked back at the forest — more dense and tangled and full of mystery than the forested part of Beacon Hill Park at home. How could she ever paint it? No art school taught how to paint such immense, paralyzing magnificence.” Vreeland has written a number of painting-related novels, including “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” about the subjects of Auguste Renoir’s eponymous painting.
Lust for Life
By Irving Stone
Here is the story of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, starting when he is a lonely young man with an unknown future. “The little family before him, with its clinging unity and joyous affection, brought him to a realization that he had been hungry, desperately hungry for love all these weary months, and that it was a hunger not easily destroyed.” He studies for the ministry then turns to painting. “The ground was light and dark reddish brown, made more so by the shadows of trees which threw streaks over it and sometimes half blotted it out. The question was to get the depth of colour, the enormous force and solidness of the ground. While painting, he perceived for the first time how much light there was still in that darkness. He had to keep that light, and keep at the same time the depth of rich colour.”
For these and other books, fiction and nonfiction, about art and artists, visit the Rutland Free Library.
Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.