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Lilianne Milgrom. Little French Girl, $17 trade paper (268p) ISBN 978-1-73486-700-8
Artist Milgrom debuts with a richly imagined blend of autofiction and art history that revolves around a copyist named Lilianne Milgrom’s engagement with a shocking Courbet painting. During a brief residency at the Musée d’Orsay in 2011, Lilianne gains permission to copy 19th-century French painter Gustave Courbet’s scandalous L’Origine du monde, a diminutive nude portrait featuring the female subject’s genitals. Lilianne proceeds to unravel the picture’s story from its commission by Khalil Bey, a wealthy Turk in Paris, when Courbet was at the height of his fame in 1865, to the painting’s belated public display at the end of the 20th century. Milgrom evokes the powerful reactions that attracted its owners and the lengths they undertook to conceal the work as well as Courbet’s tragic death after being convicted on false charges of desecrating national artifacts because of his association with the Paris Commune. In 1913, Hungarian Jewish art collector Ferenc Hatvany acquires the painting, and subsequently recovers it from Nazi confiscation. The final private owner, psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, uses it as a therapeutic talking point with his patients. The outrages, desire, and desperation the painting provokes make for delicious, emotionally powerful reading, while the historical details appear unobtrusively. Readers will be delighted by this delectable tale. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 08/13/2021

Release date 07/01/2020