fiction that extols the virtues of art is certainly not a new
phenomenon. Think of Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” In recent years
authors like Tracy Chevalier and Jeanne Kalogridis have come to
prominence for constructing fictional narratives around specific works
of art, using them as a starting point from which to explore the social
or historical context within which they were painted. Perhaps more
importantly, they allow readers to peek beneath the shroud of mystery
surrounding artists and their subjects.
Susan Vreeland’s new novel, Luncheon of the Boating Party, belongs to this vein of fiction. Based on Renoir’s painting of the same name, it allows readers to enter the painting’s leisurely scene and capture a view of Parisian society in the late 19th century. Most of us are familiar with the painting—a flock of young people lounging about a table laid with wine and fruit, their faces bathed with the inimitable radiance of youth at leisure.
book explores the characters that make up the scene, and allows us to
eavesdrop on their animated chatter and penetrate their wistful stares.
It makes for a rather ironic reversal of processes, drawing a narrative
from a work of art in much the same way the academic art rejected by
the impressionists was inspired by historical narratives.
Vreeland will speak at the Milwaukee Art Museum on Feb. 28 at 6:15 p.m. The talk is free with museum admission, but a reception that follows in Cafe Calatrava requires reservations and costs $15 per person. For information, call (414) 224-3293.
Also this week Martin Hintz and Pam Percy, the same local authors who brought you compelling titles like The Complete Chicken and Wisconsin Off the Beaten Path, come to Sendik’s in Mequon to talk about their newest book, Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide to the Cheeses of Wisconsin. The book is packed with more than 100 recipes, cheese trivia, profiles of cheese-makers and much, much more. The event takes place at 10930 N. Port Washington Road, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and includes an author presentation as well as an opportunity to taste some of the cheeses mentioned in the book.