Living near Chicago is something that I rarely appreciate as the gift it is in my life. One of my favorite high school field trips was for my senior year Humanities class in which we took an architectural walking tour of the city and ended up at one of my favorite museums, The Art Institute of Chicago. With the iconic lions gracing the stairs on either side of the entrance, the outside of the building is gorgeous but displays only a tiny fraction of the priceless beauty inside.
It's a place I could lose myself in for hours on end, and though I haven't been there in several years (a fact I hope to remedy this summer) I recently encountered a book that transported me there and reminded me how much I love the place and the stunning works contained inside. The Muse of Edouard Manet is the second that I have read, but the first written, by my college friend Michael Clifford.
A conservationist at The Art Institute of Chicago, Emily Porterfield has always been attracted to the works of pre-Impressionist painter Eduoard Manet. When a Manet exhibit is scheduled to display at the Art Institute, Emily x-ray's one of the paintings and discovers a hidden letter written in lead white paint beneath the artist's scene. The discovery could change her career, but her life is even more drastically altered when, upon falling asleep after reading the letter, she is mystically transported to Paris in the 1870's and meets the artist himself.
Swept up in the amazing impossibility of time travel while dreaming, Emily finds herself getting to know, and falling in love with, the man whose work she would adore a hundred fifty years in the future. However, in the present, she faces the discovery of three "new" Manet paintings, seemingly lost during World War II. Whether the paintings are real or forged is a secret that someone might just be willing to kill to keep.
M. Clifford's work is a stunning blend of genres - science fiction and history, romance and mystery. The details of Edouard Manet's life and work are as intricate and precise as the expertly researched descriptions of modern day art authentication and preservation. Sweetly romantic, action-driven, and emotional, with a mix of information, humor and suspense, The Muse of Edouard Manet is a literary work of art!
The book tells a succinct story with a satisfying conclusion, but with writing this vivid and characters so enjoyable, readers will be eager for the soon to be released second and third books in The Time Chronicles of Emily Porterfield!
Along with being a really enjoyable read, this book reminded me how much I love artwork. I actually took an Art History class in college and one of my fondest memories was actually being given the assignment to spend time in the art museum. One of my favorite works was actually not a painting but a sculpture. It's a somewhat creepy and disturbing work - image at left - called "The Blind" by Lorado Taft. (..but that's a rather long story.) Do you consider yourself an art fan? Do you have a favorite painting? Van Gogh's Starry Night? The Scream by Munch? Seurat's Sunday Afternoon? I'd love to hear comments about what inspires or awes you!