Katherine Keenum

A blog about how paintings, photographs, and prints have helped me visualize my fiction—both Where the Light Falls and works-in-progress—with a hope that they will stimulate other writers and readers, too.

A small sample of the images that inspired me appears below. Click on these or any images in the posts to see enlargements. In the text, click on colored words to activate links.

Selected Works

An American woman art student meets a Civil War veteran in Belle Époque Paris.


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Picturing a World

Sabatini, swashbuckler

October 14, 2018

Tags: fencing

Wish I’d known! I loved Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche and The Sea Hawk when I was in high school. In checking out a reference to the Marquis de Carabas, I came across a post about Sabatini as a fencer. I would have gotten a kick out of it while I was writing about Edward’s fencing lessons and bout with Carolus-Duran! Oh, well, at least I’m reminded of Sabatini: He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.

Käsebier’s Sketch

October 11, 2018

Tags: photograph, women artists

Although “Anonymity” is stalled at the moment (I’m writing an unrelated novella), images that belong to my heroine Mattie’s world draw me back into it. Both the beauty of this photograph and the earnestness of the artist would, I think, appeal to a wistfully idealistic side of Mattie. Although she works in the pulp end of publishing, she also fosters young talent and encourages writers and artists to strive for their best. (more…)


October 5, 2018

Tags: Académie Julian, art colony

Harold Harvey, who studied at the Académie Julian, was a second-generation painter at England’s Newlyn art colony in Cornwall. Although this painting is from a later period than the heyday of the (more…)

Eye and ear

October 3, 2018

Tags: Words or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section

Blog tip: A post at Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor, Storytelling: the eye and the ear, quotes other writers on the relation between sound and the written word. It is illustrated by several images of women reading by various artists, all of them new to me. A quiet, thoughtful meditation on the arts we love at a time when the world seems anxious and sour. Check it out.

Whistler's Cloud cabinet

October 1, 2018

Tags: Whistler, World's Fair

To prepare for my September 27th talk on Where the Light Falls and Prevention’s list of 55 Happy Books Proven to Boost Your Mood, I reread my novel and found myself wondering what images might be available now that were not when I was researching. Well, this one is splendid! I had used written descriptions of the yellow-and-gold room that Whistler designed for the Paris World’s Fair of 1878, the room that makes Jeanette long to move from drawing to painting, the room that inspires Cousin Effie to cut free from New York decorum in thinking about interior fashions. (more…)

Gertrude Fiske

September 28, 2018

Tags: women artists

Blog tip: It's almost too late to catch a show of Gertrude Fiske's work at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Historical Society, but James' Gurney's blog post at least introduced me to this accomplished painter. Doesn't this image invite musing on what the story might be?

For more of Fiske's work, click here.

What makes this book so happy (5): Love

September 27, 2018

Tags: Nourse

The categories of friendship and love inevitably blend into each other: we love our friends and hope our lovers will be our soul mates. But they can also be considered separately; and so although women’s friendships were very much a conscious motif for me while I was writing Where the Light Falls, so was the nature of love. Late in the novel, Cousin Effie says, “We are made to love and be loved, lots of different ways.” (more…)

What makes this book so happy (4): Friendship

September 26, 2018

“When I see girls of seventeen, it makes me think once I, too, was a maiden in Grenelle.” So goes the first verse of the lyrics to Aristide Bruant’s song “A Grenelle.” Jeanette is nineteen at the start of Where the Light Falls, but she walks to the Académie Julian with friends every morning, so I loved coming across this picture by Steinlen. While I was writing, I very much wanted my art students’ friendship to be central to the story because I have loved reading books about girls’ and women’s friendships ever since I was in second grade reading Betsy-Tacy to myself. (more…)

What makes this book so happy (3): Skill

September 24, 2018

Tags: Morisot, women artists

West with the Night by Beryl Markham is the first title on Prevention’s list of 55 Happy Books Proven to Boost Your Mood. What a pleasure to be reminded of that (more…)

What makes this book so happy (2): Place

September 21, 2018

Tags: Paris landmark

One way a book can make you happy is to transport you from your armchair to someplace else altogether. It helps, of course, for the place to be somewhere you’d like to visit (exposés need not apply). From Prevention’s list of 55 happy books, I’ll point to Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon as books that make you adore being in France. (more…)