The Collector's Apprentice
Book Review - The Collector’s Apprentice by B.A. Shapiro
I read this entire book without realizing that the main characters were loosely based on real people. So now that I’ve finished reading the book I’m going down a rabbit hole reading about the real people that inspired this story: Albert Barnes and Violette de Mazia. Albert was an art collector and Violette was his assistant. Together they created and developed The Barnes Foundation, which is now on my list of places to visit (along with Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston which was added after I read Sargent’s Women.) But back to the book…
The Collector’s Apprentice is about Edwin Bradley and Vivienne Gregsby, an art collector and his assistant (sound familiar?) But let me rewind, the story begins with Paulien Mertens, who is 19 years old and disowned by her family after she falls in love with a con artist who swindles her family and their friends out of all their money and their precious art collection. They believe she was in on the con. With her fiancé missing, she is penniless and friendless. She moves to Paris and changes her name to Vivienne. Barely making ends meet when she meets Edwin, she is quick to quit her job to translate for him as he travels the world collecting works of art. He soon discovers that she is talented in assessing art as well as translations, so he asks her to move to Philadelphia with him to help start his museum and school. But when Edwin is found dead and Vivienne is accused of his murder, all of her hard work to repair her life is at risk of falling apart.
I never never get tired of reading about the art world! Artists are such characters and the author includes many of my favorites in this book: Henri Matisse (who is Vivienne’s love interest), Gertrude and Leo Stein, Alice Toklas, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso. Matisse is one of my favorite artists and I absolutely loved the way the author described his work - I learned a lot about the art movements he was involved in and an art historian’s take on his work. I have a favorite Matisse painting at the Art Institute of Chicago and the St. Louis Art Museum (click on the museum names to see each work.) Just as I was adding the links I realized that both are named Interior at Nice. Sounds like I need to add Nice to my list of places to visit.
I took the photos of this book at the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs, CA. I stopped by for the sole purpose of taking these photos in front of that ridiculously gorgeous white brick wall, which has to be one of the most Instagrammed spots in all of Palm Springs. But I stayed for a cocktail at their bar, Mini Bar prior to going to dinner with my husband at Azucar at La Serena Villas. There is something I just love about good hotel bars! I love that they bring together a collection of people who would otherwise never cross paths, often from all over the world. Like a Parisian café they are great for people watching. And a well-mixed cocktail is something to admire.