Rediscover: Girl in Hyacinth Blue

Susan Vreeland, whose novels explore art, artists and artistic inspiration, died on August 31 at age 71. She earned widespread acclaim for her second novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999), which follows a fictional Vermeer painting through centuries of ownership back to its conception. Vreeland uses eight short stories to track the Vermeer's owners, beginning with a remorseful professor whose Nazi father looted the work while rounding up Jews in Amsterdam. The next story tracks that doomed Dutch family, then moves further back in time to a farmer's wife, a Bohemian student and on to the pictured girl herself, with each person altering the painting's fate and being touched by its beauty.

Vreeland's other novels also portray artists and their work. The Passion of Artemisia (2002) fictionalizes the life of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656), a female Italian Baroque painter, while Luncheon of the Boating Party (2007) washes life into Renoir's famous impressionist painting, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany (2012) illuminates the long overshadowed woman who crafted Louis Comfort Tiffany's stained glass lamps. Vreeland's final novel, Lisette's List (2014), finds an aspiring art gallery apprentice and her husband in Vichy France, where she becomes immersed in post-impressionist art history. Girl in Hyacinth Blue was released in paperback by Penguin Books in 2000 ($15, 9780140296280). --Tobias Mutter

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