Library of Virginia and VMFA Announce Winner of Annual Art in Literature Award

Recipient to be honored at the 2018 Library of Virginia Literary Awards in October

Richmond, VA – The Library of Virginia and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts are pleased to announce the winner of the annual Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award. The judges selected Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas by Donna M. Lucey. Lucey will be recognized on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, at the VMFA and on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, at the Library of Virginia’s annual Virginia Literary Awards Celebration.

The fascinating backstories of four women painted by John Singer Sargent come alive in this seductive, multilayered biography. With unprecedented access to newly discovered sources, Lucey illuminates the lives of four extraordinary women painted by the iconic high-society portraitist Sargent.

With uncanny clairvoyance, Sargent’s portraits hint at the mysteries, passions and tragedies that unfolded in his subjects’ lives. Sequestered in a fantasyland castle in the remote Rocky Mountains, Elsie Palmer carried on a labyrinthine love life. Elizabeth Chanler stepped into a maze of infidelity with her best friend’s husband. As the veiled image of Sally Fairchild —beautiful, commanding and poison-tongued — emerged on Sargent’s canvas, the power of his artistry lured her sister Lucia into an ill-fated life in art. Shrewd, iron-willed Isabella Stewart Gardner collected both art and young men. Born to unimaginable wealth, these women lived on an operatic scale, and their letters and diaries create a rich depiction of the Gilded Age and the acclaimed but secretive painter whose canvases defined the era.

Lucey is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age and the award-winning work Photographing Montana 1894–1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron, as well as other books, articles and a feature-length screenplay. The recipient of two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a 2017 writer-in-residence at The Mount (home of author Edith Wharton), Lucey serves as media editor at Virginia Humanities in Charlottesville, where she lives with her husband, author Henry Wiencek.

Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award recognizes an outstanding book in fiction or nonfiction published in the previous year that is written primarily in response to a work (or works) of art while also showing the highest literary quality as a creative or scholarly work. Submissions can include works of journalism, poetry, fiction, biography or history, as well as museum exhibition catalogs. This unique award, established in 2013, is named in honor of Mary Lynn Kotz, author of the award-winning biography Rauschenberg: A Life. The inaugural award recipient was The Innocence of Objects by Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. Last year’s winner was Dawn Tripp for her novel Georgia: A Novel, about Georgia O’Keeffe and her love affair with photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The Art in Literature Award is presented each year during the annual Virginia Literary Awards celebration weekend, which takes place in Richmond, Virginia.


Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 | 6–8 p.m.
Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award
VMFA, Marble Hall, 200 N. Boulevard, Richmond

This event will feature a presentation by the award recipient, Donna M. Lucey, followed by a book signing and reception.

Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 | 6-10:30 p.m.
Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration
Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad St., Richmond

The winners of the fiction, nonfiction and poetry awards — as well as the People’s Choice Awards — will be announced on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, at the 21st Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration honoring Virginia authors and friends. This gala event, sponsored by Dominion Energy, attracts authors, publishers, and those who enjoy the written word. Featured speaker will be author Susan Orlean, whose latest work, The Library Book, will be published on Oct. 16, 2018. Award-winning author Adriana Trigiani will again serve as host for this event.

For ticket information, please call 804.692.3813 or visit

CONTACT: Amy Bridge, Library of Virginia Foundation