Laura Marx Fitzgerald @ Politics and Prose
First-time author Laura Marx Fitzgerald spoke to a large crowd of fifth graders at Politics and Prose on Monday, June 9, 2014. Her first book, Under the Egg, is a middle grade art mystery that takes place in New York City.
So, how did this former art history major and copywriter become a children's book author? A sense of inquiry and her need for discovery! Although she studied art history in college, Ms. Fitzgerald said, "It was excruciatingly boring!" because her classes were most often about art theory and comparing artists rather than the stories behind the art. After graduating, she started reading the kind of art history books that really captivated her imagination and satisfied her sense of curiosity: what was going on with the artists that motivated them to make art? what circumstances in the world around them inspired them or changed their art styles? In particular, Edward Dolnick's The Forger's Spell was a fascinating read for her about an art forger, the science related to art and forgery, the Nazi penchant to collect (or steal) art, and the psychology behind the desire to discover "lost" artworks.
She read more about painters like Raphael and Titian and the art that often revealed their secret lives. (In the Resources section of her website, Ms. Fitzgerald has additional background information about both artists, and more art history factoids relevant to Under the Egg.) Through the many books she read, the pieces began to come together for her own book about a young girl who is bequeathed a painting from her recently-deceased grandfather, only to discover the hidden painting underneath. Is it a Renaissance masterpiece? If so, how did it come into her grandfather's possession? And so begins a mystery that takes her all around Manhattan to discover the truth about the painting and her grandfather.
To use the term "interesting" to describe Ms. Fitzgerald's presentation would be unimaginative, but that's exactly what it was. I couldn't stop listening to her talk because I wanted to know more and more about art. She is so right about the stories behind the art making art history more engaging. I could tell that many of the students were captivated by the sometimes titillating details of an artist's life or the intrigue behind why a painter painted over a work of art. Her talk also reaffirmed that there is an intersection between art and science & technology, that STEAM is an extremely relevant topic to today's students.