“Written in prose so clear that we absorb its images as if by mind meld, “The Last Painting” is gorgeous storytelling: wry, playful, and utterly alive, with an almost tactile awareness of the emotional contours of the human heart. Vividly detailed, acutely sensitive to stratifications of gender and class, it’s fiction that keeps you up at night — first because you’re barreling through the book, then because you’ve slowed your pace to a crawl, savoring the suspense.” —Boston Globe
A New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
A RARE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY PAINTING LINKS THREE LIVES, ON THREE CONTINENTS, OVER THREE CENTURIES IN THE LAST PAINTING OF SARA DE VOS, AN EXHILARATING NEW NOVEL FROM DOMINIC SMITH.
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Is artistic imitation an innocent form of flattery or a serious crime? It depends on who you ask. Dominic Smith’s shimmering, time-tripping novel follows the fate of a rare 17th-century Dutch landscape painting—and its 20th-century forgery. Along the way, the story introduces us to the interconnected lives of a female painter, a forger (also a woman), and the very rich owner of the contested artwork. Unfolding like a kind of philosophical thriller, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is a page-turning meditation on art…and the power and value we choose to give it.
The Dutch golden age is reimagined through a haunting landscape painting and three interwoven characters, timelines, and locales in this luminous audio adaptation of Smith's novel. In 1636, while grieving the death of her young daughter, artist Sara de Vos paints At the Edge of a Wood. The painting remains in the De Groot family for 300 years until it is stolen from wealthy Manhattanite Marty De Groot in 1958 and replaced with a forgery. An investigator leads Marty to Ellie Shipley, a local art history student and the creator of the fake. As Marty embarks on a deceptive relationship with Ellie, reader Ballerini's brilliant execution conveys the hesitancy, awkwardness, tension, and guile. Decades later, Marty and Ellie are reunited in Australia, where the appearance of both the original and the fake paintings threatens Ellie's career. Ballerini's versatility with intonation and timing convey the thrill of foreboding. His voice travels easily, equally confident in 17th-century Dutch life and in a 1950s New York jazz bar; he also segues seamlessly between American and Australian accents. This is an excellent audio. An FSG/Crichton hardcover.
There are sentences and paragraphs in this book that set something visceral off in me. I am grateful to have been guided to this by a review in a magazine. I’m going to read it again in a while which is something i rarely do. First, I’m going to go read all of his other books.
If you love painting (and painters), Amsterdam and New York City, you will love this book.
Masterly Interwoven Story
A lovely read for a quiet day by a fire - or just next to the heater while under a blanket. A wonderful tale that travels time without (too much) artifice.