The Curies, Seen Through an Artist's Eyes

From the New York Times:

Described simply, “Radioactive” is an illustrated biography of Marie Curie, the Polish-born French physicist famous for her work on radioactivity — she was the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice — and her equally accomplished husband, Pierre. It lays bare their childhoods, their headlong love story, their scientific collaboration and the way their toxic discoveries, which included radium and polonium, poisoned them in slow motion.

Described less simply, it’s a deeply unusual and forceful thing to have in your hands. Ms. Redniss’s text is long, literate and supple. She catches Marie Curie’s “delicate and grave” manner as a young student, new to Paris; she notes the “luminous goulash” of radium and zinc that one chemist prepares; she observes with pleasure another man’s “thriving mustache.” She has a firm command of, but an easy way with, the written word.

The electricity in “Radioactive,” however, derives from the friction between Ms. Redniss’s text and her ambitious and spooky art. Her text runs across and over these freewheeling pages, the boundaries between word and image constantly blurring. Her drawings are both vivid and ethereal. Her people have elongated faces and pale forms; they’re etiolated Modiglianis. They populate a Paris that’s become a dream city.

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