Everything that deceives must be said to enchant.
Researching the Book:
Encounters with the Art World
More than any other novel I’ve written, this book relied on the knowledget of experts. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with Stephen Gritt, the head of conservation at the National Gallery of Canada. It was Stephen who first turned me on to lead-tin yellow and its fascinating history. Frima Fox Hofrichter, the preeminent specialist on Dutch women painters of 17th century Holland, answered my never-ending questions by email and by phone. And, finally, the master forger who described his career in Caveat Emptor, Ken Perenyi, was kind enough to vet my fabrications.
In 1631, Sara de Vos becomes the first woman to be admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke in Holland. Three hundred years later, At the Edge of a Wood, her haunting winter scene of a girl watching skaters at dusk, is her only surviving work. It hangs in the bedroom of a Park Avenue coop of a wealthy Manhattanite, a descendant of the original owner. Meanwhile, in the grungier reaches of Brooklyn, an Australian art history grad student struggling to stay afloat in New York agrees to paint a forgery of the landscape for a dubious art dealer. Half a century later, she's a prominent curator back home in Sydney, mounting an exhibition of female Dutch painters of the Golden Age. Both versions of At the Edge of a Wood by Sara de Vos are en route to her museum, threatening to unravel her life and reputation. Read an excerpt
New York Times Bestseller
New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
An elegant page-turner…
The New York Times Book Review
NPR’s Fresh Air
A riveting tale of art theft…[a] suspenseful story of one painting’s rippling impact on three people over multiple centuries and locations.
The Washington Post
Lustrous...skillful plotting and effortless prose.
The Chicago Tribune
As luminous as a Vermeer.
Incandescent…Smith plunges us into the world of the art forger with precision and startling beauty.
San Francisco Chronicle
Gorgeous storytelling: wry, playful, and utterly alive, with an almost tactile awareness of the emotional contours of the human heart…
The Boston Globe
As this story of art, beauty, deception and the harshest kinds of loss ranged over continents and centuries, I was completely transfixed by the sense of unfolding revelation. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is, quite simply, one of the best novels I have ever read, and as close to perfect as any book I’m likely to encounter in my reading life. One of those rare books I’ll return to again and again in the coming years.
BEN FOUNTAIN, bestselling author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a National Book Finalist
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is a story told in layers of light. From afar, this novel is so beautiful, the prose so clear and vivid, that it seems effortless; on closer examination, one sees the rich thematic palette Dominic Smith has used. This is a novel of love and longing, of authenticity and ethical shadows, and, most importantly, of art as alchemy, the way that it can turn grief into profound beauty.
LAUREN GROFF, bestselling author of Fates and Furies and Arcadia
Gliding gracefully from grungy 1950s Brooklyn to the lucent interiors of Golden Age Holland and the sun-splashed streets of contemporary Sydney, the novel links the lives of two troubled, enigmatic, and hugely talented young women, one of them an artist, the other, her forger. A page-turning book with much to say about the pain and exhilaration of art and life.
GERALDINE BROOKS, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March and The Year of Wonders
In The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith moves effortlessly between his seventeenth century artist and those who fall under the spell of her work more than three hundred years later. Smith is a writer of huge gifts and his descriptions of the painting and of those who fall in love with it, (and with each other) are rendered with wondrous intelligence and keen wit. The result is a novel of surprising beauty and piercing suspense. I couldn't stop turning the pages even while the last thing I wanted was to reach the end.
MARGOT LIVESEY, New York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy