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Picturing a World

Wallpaper vendor

Selling odd rolls of wallpaper on the street? Well, why not? Surplus manufactured goods always wind up somewhere. Still, this abject vendor from Costume of the Lower Orders of the Metropolis by Thomas Lord Busby brought me up short. How did she obtain her wares and who were the buyers? I still don't know, but a quick search led me to Eking out a living on the streets of Paris at a wonderful website to explore, Parisian Fields, and to A brief history of wallpaper at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Question: would you make the vendor your central character, or would one of your characters seek out cheap paper by going to a street market?

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Hats and illustrations

Website alert: I happen to be rereading Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones at bedtime. Its heroine, Sophie Hatter, works in her stepmother's millinery shop. Okay, so today something prompted me to check to see whether Jim Kay is working on illustrations for another Harry Potter book. He is, The Order of the Phoenix, as I discovered at the website he shares with his wife Louise Clark. Who, yes! is a hatter. Go take a look her Millinery page if you love hats; they're all as delicious as this one (which is perfect for a Sophie Hatter creation). And if you are curious about Diana Wynne Jones, a Tor essay on where to start reading her books is a good overview.

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Sija Hong and dragons

Serendipity delivers again. No sooner had I read Maria Dahvana Headley's exhilarating new translation of Beowulf, with its dragon fight, when up pops this splendid illustration of a different one by Sija Hong in Monstrous Tales: Stories of Strange Creatures and Fearsome Beasts from Around the World (2020). According to her website, the artist is "is a Chinese award-winning illustrator based in New York City." She is wholly new to me, and very appealing. Check out her website for more of her work. (Yeah, and, bro/sis, check out Beowulf, too.)

 

Via Lines and Colors.

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Woman Suffrage procession, March 3

Efforts to pass the 19th Amendment (""The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex") began in 1878. On the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated president on March 4, 1913, the National American Woman Suffrage Association's procession in Washington, D.C., highlighted and energized a new push to get it passed. I suppose one can regret that a commission for this cover was given to illustrator Benjamin Moran Dale instead of woman, but then again talent should not be denied or abridged on account of sex! For interior pages of the program, click here. For the participation by a Black sorority, click here. For a college student's excellent essay with photographs, click here. Now, if only the vote had brought equal pay for equal work …

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Fabulous frames

Website alert: One thing leads to another. While I was searching last week for a photo of Carolus-Duran in his studio, I came across this image of one of his paintings inside its original Salon-style frame. It appears in the fascinating, highly detailed, illustrated post, John Singer Sargent & the framing of his pictures. I didn't know about The Frame Blog website, but, wow, does it seem worth exploring!

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Van Gogh’s Montmartre

I hate what Sotheby's did to the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; but news that the auction house will be selling this remarkable painting, Scène de rue à Montmartre (Impasse des Deux Frères et le Moulin à Poivre) by Vincent van Gogh is just too interesting to pass over. It has been in a private family, so at least its sale will not damage a museum. And if you go to the Sotheby's page, you'll be able to enlarge the image and get the impact of van Gogh's brush work. It conveys better than any painting I've ever seen before the ramshackle nature of Montmartre and its windmills.

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Walter Gay (5) The Gilded Age

Here is Walter Gay depicting the Gilded Age interior splendor for which he is best known. The word is luxe. (And, yea, the painting is shown in its ornate gilt frame.) I'll leave it to art historians to discuss Gay as an artist. For those of us who write fiction his pictures offer loads of period details for life among the rich in the latter part of the 19th C and into the 20th, especially in France.

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Walter Gay interiors (4): Creative misprision

"Creative misprision" is a concept in literary criticism. Briefly put, an artist or a writer misinterprets someone else's work and takes off from there in a new direction. When I first saw this pastel drawing by Walter Gay, I thought the window looked out onto the brick wall of the next building. I saw the room as empty, dusty, and formerly grand but now hemmed in and down-at-heels. Maybe it could be the setting for a young protagonist who is thrilled to find a romantic apartment which is cheap because of the blocked view. Maybe it could illustrate a melancholy last view by someone moving out. The fact that the image is non-narrative in itself makes it more potent in a way for stimulating imagination.

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Walter Gay's interiors (3) Himself in his studio

This photograph shows how many props, bibelots, and other furnishings filled Walter Gay's own studio. In looking for a photo of Carolus-Duran in his for comparison, I was delighted to find that a post—Where the Light Falls: An American Artist in Paris—is still available at the American Girls Art Club in Paris … and Beyond website. It has many images that illustrate the novel, including one of Carolus in his studio at his organ.

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Walter Gay’s interiors (2): Another Paris studio

As a first follow-up to my last post, here is another painting that could be a "portrait without a person," one that could help a writer create the character of late-19th C artist and visualize a setting. Notice that this picture is not attributed to Walter Gay himself, but to an unnamed follower.

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