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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Book Club

Ekphrasis is a monthly book club devoted to the history of art for Museum members. Works of fiction and non-fiction are featured, covering periods ranging from the ancient world to the present. For this unique program, staff members lead presentations to provide visual context for the chosen books.

2019–2020 Schedule

The Age of Disenchantments: The Epic Story of Spain’s Most Notorious Literary Family and the Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War

Wednesday, August 14

Aaron Shulman tells the true story of an extraordinary Spanish literary family amidst the desolation of the Spanish Civil War, crossing paths with artists such as Dali and Picasso. Elisabeth Palmer will lead a discussion on The Age of Disenchantments with a special remote interview with the author.

Author: Aaron Shulman

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Mediterranean Bowl with Brown Rice, Farrow, Riced Cauliflower, Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Arugula, Chicken, Pesto, and Tzatziki; Pita Bread; Cafe Cookie


The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home

Wednesday, September 11

Denise Kiernan relays the tale of the Biltmore, built for George Vanderbilt; chronicling the estate, its storied designers and glamourous inhabitants, and the survival of turbulent times. Alice Novak and guest Jim Barganier, the Museum’s architect, will lead a discussion on The Last Castle.

Author: Denise Kiernan

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Pulled Pork Reuben on a Hoagie Roll with Southern Coleslaw, Deep Fried PickleSweet Potato Fries with Cranberry Aioli; Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Marshmallow Fluff Buttercream


The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel

Wednesday, October 9

Dominic Smith invites us into the realm of a fictive seventeenth-century Dutch artist and the intrigue surrounding a single surviving landscape by her in twentieth-century New York. Discussion to be led by Sarah Graves.

Author: Dominic Smith

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Grilled Pimento Cheese with Lettuce and Tomato on Sour Dough Bread; With Tomato Basil Soup; House Made Chocolate Chip Cookies


The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World

Wednesday, November 13

Anthony Amore, head of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, examines the breadth of high stakes deceptions in the art world and the efforts to thwart such crimes. Discussion to be led by Alice Novak.

Author: Anthony Amore

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Stuffed Frittata with potatoes, peppers, and onions, bacon, spinach, and sharp cheddar; Side Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette; Garnish of Fresh Fruit; Key Lime Pie with Whipped Cream


Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse

Wednesday, January 8

Following artists from other countries working in Paris before WWII, such as Chaim Soutine, Meisler looks at how they changed modern art and survived the Nazi occupation. Discussion led by Assistant Curator of Education Laura Bocquin.

Author: Stanley Meisler

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, and Carrots; Buttermilk Glazed Carrot Cake


Peacock & Vine: On William Morris and Mariano Fortuny

Wednesday, February 12

Byatt explores the textile designs of two great minds of the nineteenth century: one offering a relatively simple response to the natural world in England, and the other working in the glamour of Venice. Discussion led by Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld.

Author: A. S. Byatt

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Roasted Chicken Quesadillas with Pico de Gallo and Cilantro Cream; Side of Corn Salad


Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret Story of Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals that Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wednesday, March 11

The subtitle of Gross’ non-fictional work tells a lot: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In this work (originally published in 2009 and now reissued), Gross takes a tour of the Met’s then-138-year history, focusing on its illustrious leaders and donors, along with other colorful characters, such as artists, collectors, and forgers. Discussion led by Curator of Education Alice Novak.

Author: Michael Gross

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya with Basmati Rice; Peppered Biscuits; Pralines


Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces

Wednesday, April 8

Though Michelangelo’s most famous creations, Miles J. Unger takes a fresh look at one of the most free-thinking artists in the history of the world, from his Pieta to the new Saint Peter’s. Discussion to be led by Kaci Norman.

Author: Miles J. Unger

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Black and Bleu Salad with Mixed Field Greens and Chopped Romaine with Cucumber Quarters, Grape Tomatoes, Black Olives, Bleu Cheese Crumbles, and Seared Beef, with Apple Cider Vinaigrette; Peanut Butter Cup Cookies


The Boston Raphael: A Mysterious Painting, an Embattled Museum in an Era of Change, and a Daughter’s Search for the Truth

Wednesday, May 13

A mysterious Renaissance painting appeared at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in the late 60s, and its story is told by Belinda Rathbone, the daughter of the director who ultimately resigned. Discussion to be led by Elisabeth Palmer.

Author: Belinda Rathbone

Purchase: Read Herring

Boxed Lunch Menu: Trio Salad of Chicken Salad, Orzo Salad, and Pimento Cheese with Crostini; Fruit Garnish; Traditional Vanilla Cupcake with Buttercream and Sprinkles

Boxed Lunch

To reserve lunch from Café M, complete the form using the link below or contact Brandy Morrison at or 334.625.4365. Orders must be received by the Tuesday the week prior to the book club meeting.


Read Herring Books

Become a Member

This program is for Museum members only. Not a Museum member? Click here to join today!