The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro

Hello fans of The Art Forger…B.A. Shapiro has just come out with another fabulous art related novel.  Alizee Benoit is a young artist in the 1940s.  Interesting to me was that part of The New Deal and the WPA (Works Progress Administration) was the Federal Art Project.  They employed artists (over 10,000) to create art both as a relief effort and to create easel drawings, sculptures, paintings, murals and other artwork for non-federal municipal buildings. The WPA wanted to combine the creativity of these artists with the values of the American people.  Alizee is part of the project, and in 1940 she goes missing, never to be heard from again.  Her Jewish family living in German occupied France can’t contact her, her artist friends who include Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Lee Krasner don’t know where to find her.  Even Eleanor Roosevelt, her patron, is unable to locate her.  Fast forward 70 years and meet Danielle Abrams, Benoit’s great niece.  Danielle works for Christie’s auction house, and is investigating pieces of a mural found behind other paintings.  According to, the federal government has been trying to locate and catalog art from the Federal Art Project for the past several years.  Danielle traces the mural back to her great aunt, and follows her trail to its end in 1940.

Here is what I liked:  the blend of historical and fictional characters, the political background leading up to our entry into World War II, the descriptions of the art scene in New York, a deeper picture of the artists.  I also found the depiction of European refugees and their attempts to get into the United States very relevant to today’s world.  I appreciate when fiction based on another time period can dissect and teach us something so applicable to current events.  And, it is a page turner!