The Last Painting of Sara de Vos…
In The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, US-based Australian writer Dominic Smith brilliantly bridges the historical and the contemporary, tracking a collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the Golden Age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated Australian art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth.
In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke in Holland, the first woman to be so honoured. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain-a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the Manhattan bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner. An Australian grad student, Ellie Shipley, struggling to stay afloat in New York, agrees to paint a forgery of the landscape, a decision that will haunt her. Because now, half a century later, she’s curating an exhibit of female Dutch painters, and both versions threaten to arrive. As the three threads intersect with increasing and exquisite suspense, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos mesmerises while it grapples with the demands of the artistic life, showing how the deceits of the past can forge the present.
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is a novel I was greatly anticipating and it did not disappoint. What an exquisite novel this is! It is one to take your time over, to slow down and savour, awarding yourself the luxury to linger over the words and the story they inevitably form. There are passages within this novel that make you pause and ache from the beauty of what is being depicted.
It is an incredibly well rounded story, covering three different jumps in time with finesse and continuity. The final chapter brings two stories, centuries apart, neatly together and provides a perfect finish.
The author has described the paintings of De Vos so vividly that I have a complete picture in my mind of what they might have looked and felt like. There is so much skill to this style of writing; I am humbled from merely reading it. I feel this novel should be elevated to the status of a modern classic; such beauty throughout and so engaging from start to finish.