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


May 30, 2013

Tags: Charlie Post

Harrison’s Wave inspired Charlie Post’s paintings of water, plain and simple. My idea for Charlie’s receding sickle moon, however, came more from Tonalist paintings with their atmospheric suggestions of mystery.

Charlie Post

May 27, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Charlie Post, Sargent, studio

I’m not sure which came first, seeing Hovenden’s Self-Portrait or imagining Charlie Post. Like Charlie, Hovenden here seems to me pugnacious, introspective, dissatisfied, brooding, wistful, though his self-confidence is of a different stripe from Charlie’s obsessive belief in his work.

This self-portrait also points to a motif that could have been part of the novel but wasn’t, namely how musically accomplished many of the artists of this period were (including Carolus-Duran and John Singer Sargent). Notice how the scroll above the Hovenden’s violin peg box just touches the edge of the picture on his easel, symbolically joining the two arts. Similarly, in Marie Bashkirtseff’s self-portrait of 1880, the harp behind the painter just touches her palette.

Austen in Austin

May 24, 2013

A TIP from writer Polly Shulman: There is a new interactive website from UT-Austin called What Jane Saw. It recreates a retrospective showing of paintings by Sir Joshua Reynold, which Jane Austen visited in 1813. Polly’s forthcoming YA novel, The Wells Bequest, is about time travel, and clever websites like this one aid the imagination in doing just that.

Breton Bed

May 23, 2013

Tags: Amy, Jeanette, Mosler, malade

I made a big Breton bed a focal point in the Gernagans’ farmhouse kitchen partly because they were characteristic of Brittany and were depicted frequently in regional paintings. This painting by Mosler of a son returning to his father’s deathbed illustrates also the wider 19th C genre of an ill, dying, or dead person in bed. Later in Where the Light Falls, Amy and Jeanette both paint La Grecque posed as une malade.

My Novel, The Movie

May 21, 2013

Tags: Zeringue

NEWS AGAIN from Marshal Zeringue's super Campaign for the American Reader. Today he features my daydreams on casting a movie version of Where the Light Falls. You can also read the post at My Novel, The Movie. Many thanks to Marshal for his imaginative blogs that encourage more readers to read more books.

If you have ideas for casting, please comment here or at Marshal's site—or both!


May 20, 2013

Tags: Beaux, Guenn

In her 1930 autobiography, Background with Figures, Cecilia Beaux says that every artist in Paris had read Blanche Willis Howard’s novel Guenn: A Wave on the Breton Coast. Its main characters are artists who summer on the Breton coast and the local girl, Guenn, who poses for one of them. (more…)

The Page 69 Test

May 16, 2013

Tags: Zeringue

MORE BREAKING NEWS: Marshal Zeringue of the Campaign for the American Reader website has posted another guest blogspot of mine. Marshal asks authors to hold a mirror up to p. 69 of their book and comment on what they see. The premise is simple; the experience is startling—right through the looking glass!

Pont Aven

May 16, 2013

Tags: Pont Aven, transportation

This is a view of Pont Aven from the estuary looking back inland to the town. Ragland and Nagg have their studio near here, where Charlie Post is working on his huge painting of an oncoming wave.

Sitting in a bustle

May 14, 2013

Tags: fashion or clothes, illustration

As Adeline Vann tells Jeanette, bustles were out of fashion in Paris in 1878 (they came back in the 1880’s). After seeing a wonderful video, however, I simply must help spread the word on How to Sit in a Victorian Bustle Dress.

With thanks to Two Nerdy History Girls


May 13, 2013

Tags: Pont Aven, sketches, transportation

After reaching the train station in Quimperlé on their way to the Breton seaside town of Pont Aven, Jeanette and her friends continue their journey in a French diligence or stagecoach. For van Gogh’s vivid painting of a southern example, click here.

Robbie Dolson

May 9, 2013

Tags: Académie Julian, Breslau, Robbie

Because Louise Breslau was a student at the Académie Julian, I saw her portrait of Henry Davison early in my research. Something about the rakishly nonchalant pose of a dandy passed, transmuted, into Robbie Dolson.

Coffee with a Canine

May 6, 2013

Tags: Zeringue, dogs

BREAKING NEWS: The Campaign for the American Reader's blog, Coffee with a canine, has just published an interview with me about something as dear to me as Where the Light Falls—my Pembroke Welsh Corgi. His name? Palmer!

Sonja's Studio

May 6, 2013

Tags: Marville, street views, Sonja, handcart, studio

I can’t find the photograph of super-cheap studios in an industrial district on the Left Bank that inspired Sonja’s studio, but this Marville photograph with its sign, “Sculpture at the back of the court,” tickles me as a substitute. It even has the wet gutter!

Click on the photo to reach the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Zoom feature, which makes enlarging the picture almost like moving down the alley. When you reach the handcart on the right, you'll see that if it were decorated with crepe paper, it would fit right into Chapter Twenty-One, “Moving Day.”

For a wonderfully informative website that plots Marville’s photographs on a map alongside present-day shots of each location, click here.

Is she …?

May 2, 2013

Tags: Parisiénne, dogs, fashion or clothes, street views, transportation

One more on the streets, this time walking alone. She is well dressed and carries the sort of bouquet that last Thursday’s shopper might have bought at the florist. But is she a respectable Parisiénne or a kept woman? A source of social unease in Paris in the latter 19th C was the difficulty in distinguishing the two on sight, for they dressed very much alike. The gaze of the man in the cab might be the male painter Gervex’s signal that this woman is no better than she should be. For the modern eye, it also illustrates the annoying reality that a single woman in public risked impertinent notice from strangers—though not the working woman crossing the street in the other direction. What stories do you think each of these women would tell?

Dog lovers’ note: another of those confident canines on the loose.