Portrait in Red: A Paris Obsession

Portrait in Red: A Paris Obsession
Hardcover, 6 x 9, 320 pages
ISBN: 9781597146494.

By L. John Harris

The quest to uncover the history of a mysterious painting, and a joyous exploration of art in the twentieth century and beyond.

While wandering the streets of Paris in 2015, L. John Harris finds an abandoned, unfinished, and strangely compelling painting. The subject: a girl wearing a bright-red head covering, fixing her viewer with a foreboding gaze. The painting bears no signature, only the date: January 12, 1935. Harris, a journalist and illustrator, embarks on a multi-year quest to uncover the story behind this painting. His sleuthing has given birth to Portrait in Red, a wide-ranging exploration of art and its enduring mysteries. With wit and a contagious enthusiasm, Harris traces unexpected connections between Paris on the eve of World War II, his bohemian life in the San Francisco Bay Area, the aura of original paintings, the magic of found objects, and the aesthetics of a perfect croque monsieur. Portrait in Red will delight lovers of Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes or Michael Finkel’s The Art Thief. By turns heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny, it is an existential detective story, set among world tragedies, art-historical epiphanies, and comic hijinks.

About the Author

L. John Harris

L. John Harris

L. John Harris, born in Los Angeles, studied art and literature at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. Seduced by Berkeley’s food revolution in the 1970s, Harris worked at several iconic shops and restaurants and wrote The Book of Garlic (1974). He launched his cookbook company, Aris Books, in 1980 and his “Foodoodles” cartoon byline in Bay Area magazines led to a series of illustrated memoirs: Foodoodles (2010), Café French (2019) and My Little Plague Journal (2022). Mr. Harris coproduced with PBS in 2001 the film Los Romeros: The Royal Family of the Guitar and serves as the curator of the Harris Guitar Collection at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Harris’s next book is a history of Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto,” to be published by Heyday. (Author photo by Dillon Vado)

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