Student Spotlight: Gail Tanzer

Gail Tanzer

Gail Tanzer
Art History, Languages, Writing

Gail Tanzer began taking art history courses at College of DuPage about 20 years ago. 

“Having graduated with a master’s from the University of Chicago some time before then, I was well-established in my social work career,” she said. “However, I was always interested in art history. So I took my first art history class from Lynn MacKenzie, who was the head of the department at that time. I loved the class so much that I was eager to take every other art history class that COD offered.”

By the time she was done, Tanzer applied for and was hired to be a part-time adjunct art history teacher at a local university. She has since retired from teaching and social work, and she took time to relax until discovering her next path: writing a historic fiction novel about Ducci di Buoninsegna, an artist she admired but thought was under-appreciated in modern times.

“I had done a report on Duccio for my very first art history class. I loved his altarpiece and especially his scene of Christ Entering Jerusalem on the back of the altarpiece,” she said. “Shortly after Duccio died, he became known as the ‘Father of Sienese Painting,’ which included some of his illustrious apprentices as well as other painters in Siena who created with gold and dazzling colors. Duccio’s real innovation, though, was that he was one of the very first artists to depict human beings realistically and to show them in action within their city and its architecture.”

Tanzer returned to College of DuPage to learn what she needed to create a good book. She studied Italian for a year and used the knowledge of both the language and the Italian culture to visit Siena and complete her research on Duccio. She also took a writing workshop class that helped improve her writing style.

In November 2013, her book “Duccio and the Maestà” was published through Createspace. It is available through Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

Having decided to write a series on great artists, she decided to write a book about Albrecht Dürer. In preparation to visit his birthplace in Germany, she is taking German classes at COD. Her second book, “Across the Alps: The Secret Life of Albrecht Durer,” was just published and is available on Amazon.  

She has co-written “The Ghost of Cleopatra” with John Rice about a little-known artist named Edmonia Lewis, a woman of African American and Ojibwe Indian descent who became an artist in Rome and created internationally recognized sculptures in marble. It is currently being readied for publication by OddInt Media.

Tanzer recently completed a young adult book called “Never Forget,” about four high school students who form an unlikely friendship and become entranced with studying the lost city of Sargon in ancient Mesopotamia.

“I credit my career in writing and wanting to tell the stories of artists to my mid-life venture into the inspiring courses at College of DuPage,” she said. “College of DuPage is not just a school to help one get a degree. It is also a place to gain the knowledge to do what you want to do well.

“I heartily agree with the theory that we should all be lifelong learners and doers, and COD is the place to get the skills to do so. I will always value what I have learned at College of DuPage, and I may return for further classes in my quest to be a lifelong learner.”

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