Book Biz: Could an unknown woman have designed the famous Tiffany lamp?

What if a woman had designed the famous Tiffany lamp? Should she choose art over love? Those are some of the questions explored in Susan Vreeland’s latest work of historical fiction about the world of art.

Mary Emrick, owner of Turning Pages Books & More in Natchez, is reading and enjoying the book. “It’s pretty interesting and lots of fun to read,” she said. “We have churches in town that have Tiffany windows, so I thought there would be some local interest in the book too.”

During America’s Gilded Age, the famous leaded-glass Tiffany lamps were created. Trying to match the accomplishments of his father, Comfort Tiffany would stop at nothing for the sake of beauty, and Clara Wolcott Driscoll created it for him, according to Vreeland’s book. Tiffany’s highly recognized style blended Art Nouveau, the exoticism of the Aesthetics Movement and his own adoration of nature.

Until recently, it was assumed he was the designer of the celebrated lampshades. However, two collections of letters reveal that an unrecognized woman, Clara Driscoll, designed the floral shades as well as many of the bronze bases. The book presents the two figures as they engage each other, collaborating, probing and frustrating each other, stumbling over their passions.

“It was unusual for women to be working at that time, and that may be why she has been unrecognized. Clara hired other women to help put these windows together,” Emrick said. “If you like history and stories about artists, you will like this book.”

Vreeland’s writing career has centered on fictional tales about real artists and their work. These include The Girl in Hyacinth Blue about Dutch painter Vermeer, Luncheon of the Boating Party which explores the vibrant Parisian world of Renoir and the art of la vie moderne, The Forest Lover about Canadian painter Emily Carr, and The Passion of Artemisia, a story of the Italian Baroque painter Artemisia.

Publishers Weekly said of the author, “Vreeland paints her canvas with the sure strokes of a talented artist.”

On her website Vreeland writes, “Coming out of the Louvre for the first time in 1971, dizzy with new love, I stood on Pont Neuf and made a pledge to myself that the art of this newly discovered world in the Old World would be my life companion.”

>> Clara and Mr. Tiffany

By Susan Vreeland

Published by Random House

$26 hardcover

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