Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Reading The Art Forger

I found "The Art Forger" another fun and entertaining read, and almost as obsessed with surfaces, brush strokes, layers of luminous color, and compositional strategies as many how-to books on painting. The plot weaves art history with the contemporary, and references the mystery surrounding the Gardner Museum heist, in which two men disguised as ­police officers conned their way into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, tied the guards up with duct tape, and made off with 13 artworks, including three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, and a Manet, altogether valued at $500 million. 

Pondering reproductions, copying, and forgeries tends to make one ponder basic questions about the value of art, doesn't it? If experts can not tell an authentic painting from a forgery, then what exactly are art buyers paying for? Is it status? Authenticity? Is it a look or a signature or a name? Or is it the participation in a unique and original vision that ownership provides?

Written in a first person narrative, the protagonist delves into details about forgery techniques, as she employs the famous art forger Han van Meegeren’s methods of painting. Van Meegeren used synthetic phenol formaldehyde resin dissolved in a spirit such as turpentine and/or an essential oil which would then be mixed with hand-ground powder pigments. This was then baked to change its chemical composition permanently, becoming insoluble in alcohol, or other common solvents. The results are described as so beautiful that I'm almost tempted to try it.

8 comments:

Kathryn Hansen said...

I just put it on my library list...I'm picking up Steve Martins book tonight! Excited to read both...thanks for the recommendations!

Katherine Kean said...

Kathryn, great - I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Vickie Martin said...

Another interesting book is Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art. The Gardner Heist - both the book and the documentary are very interesting. I think forgery and art-theft are both fascinating topics.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Vickie, thanks, I'll check the book and documentary out. I'm fascinated too, especially in how they provoke questions about value.

Anne Maxfield said...

Thanks for the reccomendation! I love books like that. The Gardiner Heist is also a fascinating read.

Katherine Kean said...

My pleasure, Anne. Thanks for mentioning The Gardiner Heist. It's now on my list.

Jean Spitzer said...

When I first saw this, I thought I had already read it, but, even better, I have another book to read. Thanks!

Katherine Kean said...

My pleasure, Jean!