IN PASSIONATE PURSUIT
By Alessandra Comini, PhD
Memoir of an internationally known art scholar, art historian, author and teacher.
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Overflowing with passion for her work as a scholar and teacher, Distinguished Professor of Art History Emerita at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, Alessandra Comini reminisces through six decades as an unconventional art historian in this illustrated memoir. The author of award-winning books on Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and Ludwig van Beethoven, Comini draws on her sixty years of daily journals, sharing research-related anecdotes as she reflects on the formation and flowering of her distinguished career. Beginning with her colorful background as a refugee from Franco’s Spain, then Mussolini’s Italy, she describes her music-loving family’s sometimes humorous, sometimes painful adjustment to a World War II Texas. A series of fortuitous experiences at Interlochen’s National Music Camp, Barnard College, the University of California at Berkeley, and Columbia University later leads to what would ultimately be a turning point in her life as well as in Schiele scholarship. She discovered the actual cell in which Schiele had been imprisoned in a provincial Austrian jail half a century earlier. Comini invites readers to join her in the same zestful and persistent pursuit of cultural history that has repeatedly earned her the honor of being voted “outstanding” professor, by her students at Columbia University and later at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Her research and quests take the reader around the world and back. From the islands of Corfu, Madeira, Rügen, and Tahiti to the cities of Lisbon, Rome, Oslo, and St. Petersburg, Comini pursues such diverse and distinctive personalities as Rosa Bonheur, Gustav and Alma Mahler, Pablo Picasso, Eleonora Duse, Edvard Munch, Käthe Kollwitz, Vaslav Nijinski, and Egon Schiele. Alessandra Comini’s memoir will inspire readers with its sincere and compelling account of an extraordinary life and career still passionately in progress. Retirement for her has meant discovering a joyful new profession: writing art history murder mystery novels that take her eighty-year-old pseudonymous heroine Megan Crespi from the top of Europe down to Antarctica in pursuit of murderous purloiners of artworks by Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, Munch, and Kollwitz.
Booklist reported: This erudite, mostly engaging self-portrait charts the making of an art historian and professional “seer,” whose passion and wit enabled her to become a noted teacher and scholar at Southern Methodist University. Comini helped unearth centuries of overlooked women in art and wrote landmark studies of the Austrian painter Egon Schiele and of musical iconography. For someone engaged in a life of the mind, she has lived much of it in motion, and the art of travel and close consideration of cultural context have been her keys to learning and teaching. She is at her riveting best when she reveals her discoveries about Schiele in his Vienna prison cell, Winckelmann in Rome and Trieste, the composer Edvard Grieg in Norway, and the painter Akseli Gallen-Kalella in Finland. Her short essays dazzle the most when they reveal her keen eye, such as when she discerns how the German artist Kathe Kollwitz, in a bust of herself, “used the resolute features of her own aging face as a spiritual topography for courage and resignation.”
Alessandra Comini was awarded Austria’s Grand Medal of Honor for her books on Viennese artists Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Her Egon Schiele’s Portraits was nominated for the National Book Award and her The Changing Image of Beethoven is used in classrooms around the country. Both are now available in new editions from Sunstone Press. Her ongoing Megan Crespi Mystery Series including Killing for Klimt, The Schiele Slaughters, The Munch Murders, and The Kokoschka Capers are also from Sunstone Press as well as a new edition of The Fantastic Art of Vienna. Other books by Alessandra Comini are Schiele in Prison, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Nudes: Egon Schiele.
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