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Susan Vreeland

Susan Vreeland, a master of turning fine art into literature, has died at age 71, following complications from heart surgery.

Her second novel, and breakthough work, Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999), traces the ownership of a purported Vermeer painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work's inspiration.

“True to the spirit of Vermeer, Vreeland uses art as a vehicle for capturing special moments in the lives of ordinary people,” Booklist said in its review. “True, too, to Vermeer’s legacy, she creates art that brings a unique pleasure into the lives of ordinary readers.”

She wrote six more books, including The Passion of Artemisia (2002), about an Italian Baroque painter; Luncheon of the Boating Party (2007), about Renoir; and Clara and Mr. Tiffany (2011), about the artist behind the leaded-glass lamps.

The Los Angeles Times obituary of the woman born in Racine, Wisconsin and reared in North Hollywood reports:

In 1971, a young high school English teacher named Susan Vreeland visited the Louvre and left with a pledge to make art her life’s companion — “to fill my mind with rich, glorious, long-established culture wrought by human desire, daring and faith.”

Once filled, her mind spun out a string of novels, blending visual art, literature and fiction, several that became New York Times bestsellers and established Vreeland as one of San Diego’s most admired authors.

The New York Times obituary included Susan explanation for her love of art and handicrafts:

That a thing made by hand, the work and thought of a single craftsman, can endure much longer than its maker, through centuries in fact, can survive natural catastrophe, neglect, and even mistreatment, has always filled me with wonder.

 Susan Vreeland’s Top Ten List

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939).
2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600).
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960).
4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
5. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (1929).
6. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929).
7. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925).
8. Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (1999).
9. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916).
10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).