Monday, May 09, 2016

Between the Lines: Novelist as Forger

by Zinta Aistars

for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guests: Dominic Smith


In some ways, Dominic Smith says novelists are like forgers. Both fake reality. Both create new worlds out of elements of the real world. In his fourth and latest novel,The Last Painting of Sara de Vos (Sarah Crichton Books, April 2016), Smith introduces readers to the world of a master forger, bringing history to life.

An Australian art history student becomes a forger as she takes on the task of replicating a painting by Sara de Vos, a 17th-century painter who lived in the Dutch Golden Age. She copies the painting for an art dealer of questionable ethics. But her work as a forger is threatened with exposure when the real painting is scheduled to arrive at the same exhibit at the same time.
Sara de Vos has only one painting attributed to her by name: “At the Edge of the Wood.” During a time when women artists were hidden or nonexistent, those few who painted usually chose still lifes as subjects. That might have been because women were expected to stay indoors, preferably in the kitchen or nursery. But Sara de Vos chose to paint landscapes. Her work is exquisite, as are Smith’s descriptions of it. And it is more than just a painting. It's a statement of rebellion over a woman’s place in the world.
Smith describes the painting at the heart of his novel: “A winter scene at twilight. The girl stands in the foreground against a silver birch, a pale hand pressed to its bark, staring out at the skaters on the frozen river. There are half a dozen of them, bundled against the cold, flecks of brown and yellow cloth floating above the ice. A brindled dog trots beside a boy as he arcs into a wide turn. One mitten in the air, he’s beckoning to the girl, to us…”
Through de Vos’s work and her rule-breaking, Smith tells the story of the Dutch Golden Age, and of the struggle of single and widowed women to earn a living. He also illuminates the inner workings of the artist guilds of the time. And juxtaposed with today, Smith unveils the extraordinary skill and techniques that go into making a forged painting.
“I read this memoir by master forger Ken Perenyi,” Smith says. “It was calledCaveat Emptor, and I was fascinated by it. At one point, I emailed him, and that was one of the stranger moments of writing this book — emailing a master forger to have him authenticate a painting that was by a fictitious character.”
Perenyi responded, and he guided Smith through the finer points of art forgery. At least half of what a forger does, Smith learned, has more to do with ...

No comments:

Post a Comment