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Santa Monica Library Event Explores the Mystery of Marie
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jorge Casuso

April 11, 2016 -- Little is known about Marie. The three photographs that exist, all taken in profile, shows a Parisian woman with an upturned nose and protruding upper lip wearing peasant garb in an unkempt garden.

The photographs were taken by Theodore Robinson, an American Impressionist artist who lived in Giverny, France, where he was a prominent painter in an artist's colony in the late 1800s and was mentored by Claude Monet.

Those are the facts and images that inspired author Rebecca Bricker to pen "The Secret of Marie," an art-history mystery she will discuss Thursday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium.

"Marie appeared in a number of Robinson’s paintings, but little is known about her, which has perplexed art historians for years," event organizers said.

"In her presentation, Rebecca shares vintage and present-day photographs of Giverny, as well as a significant discovery she made in her role as an art-history detective while doing research for this book."

A memoirist, novelist, travel writer and blogger, Bricker "lives out of her suitcase but finds herself at home in Florence, Italy, and Pasadena, California," organizers said.

She is the author of the memoir "Tales from Tavanti: An American Woman’s Mid-Life in Italy" and the novel "Not a True Story," the tale of a divorced woman's travels through that country.

Bricker became intrigued with Robinson's paintings in 2004 while staying in a bed and breakfast down the road from Monet's gardens in Giverny. The lodging, which had been a mill, and its surroundings had been the setting for some of the ex-patriot artist's paintings.

Over the next ten years, Bricker would research the life of the Vermont native, who studied painting at what is now the Chicago Art Institute, then tried to make a name in New York before heading to France, where he wold befriend Monet.

Her research led to a fascination with Marie, a prominent who also posed for other Impressionist painters, including Edgar Degas, but her identity was shrouded in mystery.

"Except for one portrait of her sitting in a chair and holding a violin, Robinson always painted her in profile, as if shielding her from curious eyes," Bricker wrote in an essay about her book. "They were lovers and spent time together in Giverny. There was gossip about a love child."

For her novel, Bricker tracked down three photographs of an anonymous woman taken by Robinson. The earring and ring and the bent tree in the background turned out to be identical to those in one of Robinson's portraits of Marie.

"Suddenly from a stack of photos that are more than 120 years old, we were looking at what’s now the first known photo of Marie’s face," Bricker wrote.

The event -- which is part of "The Living Room. . . a place for adults program series" -- is free, but space is limited and on a first-arrival basis. For more information, visit or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600. The Santa Monica Public Library is wheelchair-accessible.

For special disabled services, call Library Administration (310) 458-8606 one week prior to the event. The Main Library is directly served by Big Blue Bus lines 1, 7, R7, 8, and R10. Big Blue Bus lines 2, 3, 3M, 5, and 9 also stop within a short walking distance. Bicycle parking racks are available at the library.

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