Meadows Museum lecture on murder mystery book series

*Editor’s Note: 10:30 p.m. Feb. 27 – This story has been edited throughout.

SMU professor emireta of Art History Alessandra Comini presented on the history that inspired her Megan Crespi mystery series Thursday evening in the Bob and Jean Smith Auditorium.

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Comini retired from SMU in 2005. She began writing the Megan Crespi series in 2013. She has published five installments and is working on a sixth.

Each installment of the Megan Crespi mysteries focuses on one artist’s work being stolen, vandalized or involved in a murder case. Comini has written nonfiction books on each of the artists featured in her novels. The artists featured include: Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Edvard Munch, Gustav Klimt, and Käthe Kollwitzit.

“I don’t do any planning, I just follow what the voice says and type,” Comini said, “It’s the most exciting experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

The idea to write came to her on a flight to New Mexico while reading a murder mystery.

“The murders were few and far between,” Comini said, making the audience laugh.

About 50 community members attended the lecture sponsored by Meadows Museum board members Richard and Gwen Irwin. Mr. Irwin audited Comini’s classes while at SMU. He described her as lively and someone who could really put her students in the moment.

“This was a way for me to pay Dr. Comini back for allowing me to audit her classes,” Mr. Irwin said.

Comini’s liveliness was seen throughout her lecture as she cracked jokes and threw her notes to the floor when she was finished. She sat where she could face her slideshow presentation and turn to communicate with the audience easily.

Comini began with her personal history. She covered a span of topics including her breakthrough work in finding Viennese artist Egon Schiele’s prison cell, her personal collection of women artists’ work, and her time spent smuggling Hungarians into Vienna during the Hungarian Revolution.

“I was lucky enough to own an Opel Station Wagon,” Comini said, “so I was able to make five or six trips to the boarder everyday.”

Comini’s heroine Megan Crespi is modeled after herself, an adventurous, retired SMU art history professor around 80-years-old.

“I really love the idea that both her life and her facts influenced her fiction,” lecture attendee Julien Villarreal said.

At the end of her lecture, Comini asked the audience for suggestions for her next book. Possible artists included Paul Klee and Alexj von Jawlensky.

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