“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.
Smith's (Bright and Distant Shores) novel centers on two women who live hundreds of years apart yet are inextricably linked. When Dutch artists Barent and Sara de Vos lose their daughter to the plague in 1635, the couple falls into emotional and financial decline. Despite misfortune and the rules of her guild (women don't do landscapes), Sara completes At the Edge of a Wood, a haunting winter scene. By 1958, wealthy New Yorker Marty de Groot has inherited the painting, but after a charity event in his Upper East Side apartment, he discovers it's been replaced with a forgery. Marty's search for the original leads him to Brooklyn and Ellie Shipley, grad student and first-time forger. Years later, Marty and Ellie meet again in Sydney, where Ellie's academic life is threatened by the prospect of Marty's original and her fake appearing at the same exhibition. As in Girl with a Pearl Earring, the technical process and ineffable aspects of creating a masterpiece enrich this novel, but Smith had to invent his masterpieces because no works survive by the real-life Sarah van Baalbergen, who was the first woman admitted to the Guild of St. Luke. Smith's paintings, like his settings, come alive through detail: the Gowanus Expressway, ruins of an old Dutch village, two women from different times and places both able to capture on canvas simultaneous beauty and sadness.
Customer ReviewsSee All
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.
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
Interesting story but written in-cohesively.