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.

Click on images to see enlargements. In the text, click on words in color 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

Venetian flower pots

May 19, 2017

Tags: Venice, gardens

The geraniums in this watercolor by Francis Hopkinson Smith caught my eye, as images of flowers in pots always do. It seems both obvious and also somehow wonderful that people have been growing flowers in clay pots ever since antiquity. In a place like Venice, (more…)

Woman-Suffrage Map

May 11, 2017

Tags: magazine, woman’s suffrage

Since 1908 is my magic year for ANONYMITY, imagine my pleasure in finding this Woman-Suffrage Map while exploring Cornell’s Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography. The map appears in an article in Harper’s Weekly which reports on the status of the international woman’s suffragist movement with none of the hostility or arch humor that mar too much male journalism of the period. (more…)

Look of Wonder

May 9, 2017

Tags: illustration

Website alert: Thanks to this post at The History Blog, I arrived this morning at the Cornell University Library’s digitization of P. J. Mode’s Persuasive Map Collection. The image reproduced here could be an emblem for my sense of wonder at discovering this rich resource for Picturing Worlds through maps. For some reason, I'm having trouble with links, but if you click on the image it will take you to the Cornell page or you can enter the Cornell site via the History Blog. Either way, it's worth it—explore!

Atget carts

May 7, 2017

Tags: Atget, photograph

Follow-up: After the mention of Atget in yesterday’s post, I took another look at some of his work and came across this image at the Princeton University Art Museum. No wheelbarrow or handcart, but good horse-drawn carts!

Old London

May 6, 2017

Tags: handcart, street views

Blog alert: Every morning, I check the blog Spitalfields Life. Today’s post, A Walk in Long Forgotten London is one of several devoted to Walter Thornbury’s Old & New London, an 1873 compilation of engravings of the London that was already disappearing when it was published. (more…)

Divine hairstyles

May 3, 2017

Tags: fashion or clothes

Historical novelists love to find detailed images of daily life. Dancing naked around a tree might not count as typical, but I love the way you get back, front, and side views of related hairstyles here. Although I confess I have not worked out the text, the three ladies must be the three Graces—Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne—who were attendants of the God Apollo. (For the full illustration, in which Apollo is the dominant figure, click on the image.)

Break the rules

April 27, 2017

Blog alert: I was once puzzled by a “rule” against beginning a story with dialogue. (So much for Where the Light Falls!) Creative writing advice is full of such silliness. James Gurney offers a lovely, succinct corollary from the visual arts in his recent post Art Rules. Save that bird to remind yourself to soar on your own terms.

Mary Newcomb at Issuu

April 12, 2017

Tags: women artists

Website tip: Mary Newcomb’s sheep and star led me to the on-line publication of Mary Newcomb’s Odd Universe, the catalogue for a 2008 memorial exhibition at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Crane Kalman Gallery in London. How wonderful (more…)


March 25, 2017

Background landscapes in manuscript illuminations (and paintings of any era) fascinate me. More than the depiction of dramatic events, they make the past seem real. I found this one a couple of days ago in an elaborate three-part illustration of a (more…)

Calm waters

March 17, 2017

Tags: Charlie Post, Dusseldorf, Scandinavian artists

Surfing on the net (not the sea!) landed me yesterday at a sale at Christie’s, where this painting was up for auction. It’s just the sort of thing I had in mind for Charlie Post’s obsessively pursued subject of sea, horizon, and shore. (more…)