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A lifetime of artistic insight

Alessandra Comini's memoir, "In Passionate Pursuit," is a tribute to a life spent in the service of art, music, literature, dance, and the people who have given them expression. With Comini's book in hand as a guide, we meet or revisit foreign locales and experience their cultural riches on a unique and personal level.

A refugee from war-torn Spain and then Italy, Comini developed her unique interdisciplinary approach to the arts at Columbia University in the 1960s and 1970s and then later at Southern Methodist University, where she is now a distinguished professor of art history.

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She is the biographer of - among others - Gustav Klimt and Beethoven, and has frequently been a guest lecturer for the symposia of major international orchestras and opera companies.

Each vignette in this brief memoir rings with humor, artistic insight, and the author's desire to share and instruct. We hear of her Dallas family's decades-long hospitality to such visiting artists as Russian ballerina Alexandra Danilova and Italian basso Cesare Siepi. And we follow her to the chance discovery of the Austrian jail cell where artist Egon Schiele was imprisoned for a month in 1912.

The reader's only regret can be that her book is too short. For a newcomer to Comini's career, this is a fine introduction to a brilliant teacher and lover of the arts.

Lucie Lehmann-Barclay is a freelance writer in Boston.