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Book Review

Two Works Focus on Art World Mysteries

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In the sub-genre of fiction focusing on the mysteries in the art world, are a couple of novels to read right now.

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild works like this: a young woman is nervous about her new job as a chef in London to a couple of high profile, and perhaps dishonest art dealers (these are the villains). Around the same time, she has purchased a painting for next to nothing and meets a young man in a gallery (he’s the love interest). Then the cast-off 18th Century Rococo painting is discovered to be a lost work of the French master Jean-Antoine Watteau (that’s the mystery). Rothschild’s amusing novel and character studies--the painting even narrates parts of the story--traverse her native London through the art auction houses to the vaults of major museums.   

The author of The Art Forger, Barbara Shapiro, has now written a multi-layered book of historical intrigue entitled The Muralist, that will keep you turning pages to find out what becomes of Alizée, a French painter working in New York when the WPA, at Eleanor Roosevelt’s urging, began to support artists producing large scale murals for public buildings. Weaving the fictional Alizée with the historical figures who will be the Abstract Expressionists, Shapiro traces Alizée as she works strenuously to get her family out of German-occupied France. While everything is in order for the visas, the American government is denying entry out of fear. In what has become a timely issue, Shapiro’s novel parallels what’s happening in our world today. 

Each novel will inspire you to do your own research-- on the paintings, the museums and the historical figures you aren’t quite ready to let go.