The Last Painting of Sara De Vos

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos

Book - 2017 | First Picador edition.
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Amsterdam, 1631: Sara de Vos becomes the first woman to be admitted as a master painter to the city's Guild of St. Luke. Though women do not paint landscapes (they are generally restricted to indoor subjects), a wintry outdoor scene haunts Sara: She cannot shake the image of a young girl from a nearby village, standing alone beside a silver birch at dusk, staring out at a group of skaters on the frozen river below. Defying the expectations of her time, she decides to paint it.

New York City, 1957: The only known surviving work of Sara de Vos, At the Edge of a Wood , hangs in the bedroom of a wealthy Manhattan lawyer, Marty de Groot, a descendant of the original owner. It is a beautiful but comfortless landscape. The lawyer's marriage is prominent but comfortless, too. When a struggling art history grad student, Ellie Shipley, agrees to forge the painting for a dubious art dealer, she finds herself entangled with its owner in ways no one could predict.

Sydney, 2000: Now a celebrated art historian and curator, Ellie Shipley is mounting an exhibition in her field of specialization: female painters of the Dutch Golden Age. When it becomes apparent that both the original At the Edge of a Wood and her forgery are en route to her museum, the life she has carefully constructed threatens to unravel entirely and irrevocably.

Publisher: New York : Picador/Sarah Crichton Books, 2017.
Edition: First Picador edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781250118325
Branch Call Number: FIC SMITH
Characteristics: 295 pages


From Library Staff

List - Book Club 2019/2020
AuroraPLAdult Jun 27, 2019

Meeting November 27, 2019

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Nov 14, 2020

A deep, evocative read that even those who aren't into art history will enjoy. Smith's prose, especially in describing the various paintings, is poetic and beautiful. The novel switches between three time periods and three protagonists, the 17th century artist Sarah De Vos, Marty De Groot, whose family has owned her only known work for over three centuries, and Ellie Shipley, art student turned forger turned art history professor. Historical, lyrical and beautifully written.

Jul 27, 2020

The author weaves three plot lines from 1650, 1950, and 2000 in this very feminist novel involving fine art forgery.

Jan 12, 2019

Could have enjoyed much more without all the lengthy descriptions of men thinking about the smell of women's body parts...and women thinking about the smell of their children in many different scenarios. And the moistness associated with these smells and on and on.

The plot was interesting and the details about painting in different eras was interesting if you could plow through all these unnecessary descriptions, which I think are supposed to be lyrical but are lost on me.

Nov 01, 2018

Favourite book for 2017/2018 - historic and present. Life of Dutch painter and life in the 1650s. Ellie an art history student living in NY, disenchanted with her life, dabbles in restoration work that leads to more in the 1950s, successful curators role at University in Australia in the 2000s - all comes together.

Jun 30, 2017

This is carefully constructed novel that includes intrigue, drama, and a little art history. The characters are memorable, and I loved the way the author chose to end this story. The story prompted me to think about how we place value on things as well as how we value our lives. I recommend this book for a great summertime read.

JCLMaryanaK Feb 03, 2017

Weaving between 1630's Netherlands, 1950's New York City and Sydney in the year 2000, Smith reveals the mystery behind an art theft/forgery and the life of the artist. Although the painting and painter are fictional, the author stays true to the historical facts of the Dutch art scene of that era, making Sara De Vos and "at the edge of a wood" feel real. Smith excelled at building up the world around his characters and bringing paintings to life. Art, artists, and the art world all play a strong role, but the heart of the story is about forgiveness and letting go of the past. For anyone looking for a read-alike for Donna Tarte's "The Goldfinch", I recommend you give this book a try.

Jan 21, 2017

A well written Book; I'm an art lover and especially like the Dutch paintings from that period. Oh mine, the description of the fictional painting and the characters is so real and nicely crafted. The plot is not that predictable, which I I appreciate. How fine is the editing which the author have performed well like a finely detail masterpiece.

Jan 04, 2017

An unusual book, combining a bit of historical fiction centering around Fine Arts along with a bit of a caper story with some rather off-beat romance thrown in.
I found it an easy-going, enjoyable. It offered a number of cogent insightful observations on the unpredictability of human relations, the unintended consequences that can result from acts of deception, the startling affects of beauty upon the human psyche. Also, it was simply a cleverly conceived story. My main quibble is that I felt Smith's development of Ellie's character and her motivations, especially early in the book were a bit sketchy. Hence, a bit short of 4 stars.

Bunny_Watson716 Dec 12, 2016

I really enjoyed how this was both contemporary and historical fiction, and I loved the element of an imagined, undiscovered female Dutch master painter.

Nov 07, 2016

One of the best fiction books about art in recent years. Read it, you won't be disappointed.

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