The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
A dazzling and mesmerising story that charts the 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 art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth. A literary novel of breathtaking scope, ambition and achievement.
This is what we long for: the profound pleasure of being swept into vivid new worlds, worlds peopled by characters so intriguing and real that we can’t shake them, even long after the reading’s done. In this extraordinary novel, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, 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 to the Guild of St. Luke in Holland as a master painter, 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 exhibition 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.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Set in three centuries and bridging the passage of time through art and history, Dominic Smith’s novel weaves the story of Sara de Vos, who in 1631 was the first woman to be admitted to the Guild of St. Luke Holland as a master painter, through a contemporary narrative of intrigue and art forgery. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is a meticulously researched book and has been widely acclaimed through reviews within Australia and internationally. Louise Swinn in the Sydney Morning herald writes “History’s gaps can be filled by artists who are prepared to immerse themselves.. (uncovering) the emotional lives that can be deciphered only through emphatic reading of time, place and humanity. If these are the gaps, it is the job of novelists to fill…. Dominic Smith has done just that.”