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Book Title: L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom Category: Adult Fiction (18+), 255 pages Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Girl Friday Books – a new imprint from Girl Friday Productions Release Date: 2020 first edition. October 2021 re-released by Girl Friday Books Content Rating: R. My book does not have bad language and only one descriptive sex scene, but the protagonist is a painting whose explicit depiction of a woman’s lower torso and genitals has made it a controversial work of art for over a century and a half.
The riveting odyssey of one of the world’s most scandalous works of art.
In 1866, maverick French artist Gustave Courbet painted one of the most iconic images in the history of art: a sexually explicit portrait of a woman’s exposed genitals. Audaciously titled L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), the scandalous painting was kept hidden for a century and a half. Today, it hangs in the world-renowned Orsay Museum in Paris, viewed by millions of visitors a year.
As the first artist authorized by the Orsay Museum to re-create Courbet’s The Origin of the World, author Lilianne Milgrom was thrust into the painting’s intimate orbit, spending six weeks replicating every fold, crevice, and pubic hair. The experience inspired her to share her story and the painting’s titillating, clandestine history. L’Origine is a tale of survival, replete with French revolutionaries, Turkish pashas and nefarious Nazi captains. Hold onto your berets for a riveting ride through history.
Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an internationally acclaimed artist and award-winning author residing in Washington DC. In 2011, she became the first authorized copyist of Gustave Courbet’s controversial painting L’Origine du Monde, which hangs in the Orsay Museum in Paris. Milgrom spent a decade researching and writing L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece. Her debut novel has been awarded six literary honors including the Publisher’s Weekly 2021 US Selfies Book Award for Best Adult Fiction.
What made you write a book about a 19th century work of art?
The truth is I never set out to write a novel, let alone a novel about a scandalous 19th century painting. But ten years ago, while on an artist’s residency in Paris, I stumbled across Gustave Courbet’s infamous L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World) and I was smitten. The painting literally put a spell on me. After finishing my stint as its official copyist at the Orsay Museum, I spent ten years researching and writing my award-winning novel, L’Origine. It’s been quite an unexpected–and delightful–journey.
Your book is set in Paris. Have you ever been there?
I was actually born in Paris, but left for Australia with my family when I was a child. Nonetheless, I still feel very connected to City of Lights! My novel, L’Origine, opens in Paris in 1865 and concludes in Paris, 2010. However, the remarkable odyssey of Courbet’s masterpiece takes the reader to Constantinople, Vienna, Budapest, and Brooklyn along the way! It’s a miracle that the painting survived all these clandestine moves, as well as revolutions and world wars.
How did you do research for your book?
Ten years is a long time to research and write, but I had to cover a century and a half. I majored in French history so I found it all fascinating. I read scores of biographies and academic papers (in French) on Gustave Courbet and his work. I also read the 700-page compendium of his collected letters which gave me unique insight into his character. And then of course there’s the internet! Funneling all this information and cherry-picking the most interesting facts was the hard part.
Do you have another profession besides writing?
I am a professional artist, exhibiting my work nationally and internationally. Nowadays I split my time between my studio and my writing. I see these two creative pursuits as two sides of the same coin. You can see my artwork at liliannemilgrom.com.
What genre do you write and why?
As a history major, it’s not surprising that I am drawn to historical fiction. I love reading books that bring past eras and historical personages to life. My novel L’Origine actually brings all my passions together – history, art and literature.
In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written
parts of your book on paper?
That’s an interesting question because as an artist, I usually carry a sketchbook around with me. Since writing L’Origine and embarking on my second novel, my sketchbooks now have a dual purpose. I jot down thoughts or observations for my books. However, I am most comfortable writing at a keyboard.
What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
After completing university in Australia I took a year off to backpack around Europe (in the days when young people still did that!!). On a more personal level, when I was living in Israel in the 90’s, I learned belly dancing and joined a troupe that actually did some public performances. It was terrifying!