Susan Vreeland, whose books are rooted in her love of art, dies

Author Susan Vreeland died on Aug 23 in San Diego at the age of 71.
Author Susan Vreeland died on Aug 23 in San Diego at the age of 71.PHOTO: FACEBOOK / SUSAN VREELAND

WASHINGTON (NYTimes) - Susan Vreeland, who drew on her love of art to fashion well-regarded novels about paintings and those who paint or own them, died on Aug 23 in San Diego. She was 71.

The cause was complications of heart surgery, her agent said.

Among Vreeland's best-known books is her second novel, Girl In Hyacinth Blue (1999), about a fictional painting that may be a lost Vermeer. It traces its various owners through history, illuminating them, their times and the artwork.

She wrote the book while being treated for lymphoma.

"I remember the first time, after a bone-marrow transplant and the 100 days of solitude and confinement that followed, the world was glorious," she once told an interviewer.

"Every little blade of grass was sticking up and doing its part to make the world glorious, every breeze was a blessing. So anything in the book that is an intense description of landscape, that shows tenderness, it is because of the tenderness towards the world that I was feeling myself."


Vreeland was born on Jan 20, 1946, in Wisconsin. She lived much of her life in San Diego where she taught in high school for many years, retiring in 2002.

Her first book, What Love Sees, came out in 1988 but it was Girl In Hyacinth Blue that brought her wide attention.

Vreeland continued to write novels grounded in art, among them The Passion Of Artemisia (2002), which drew on the life of Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi; Luncheon Of The Boating Party (2007), inspired by the Renoir painting; and Lisette's List (2014), about a young woman with a love of artworks.

Vreeland once explained her own love of art and handicrafts this way.

"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."