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.

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Selected Works

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

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Poupée en Bas

June 27, 2013

Tags: Beals, Poupée, cafés and restaurants, work-in-progress

La Poupée en Bas, where Jeanette and Cousin Effie meet Sonja to discuss her eviction, is completely fictional, confected from what I learned about supper clubs and various informal arrangements made by male artists for taking communal meals. It was easy to imagine that women artists might also join together to avoid having to cook or go out to restaurants. I then had the fun of inventing the arrangement with La Belle Hélène, describing the decor, and visiting the place from time to time with my characters. But, of course, there is no illustration of it. As a substitute (and a plug for a future novel), I’m borrowing from research (more…)

Edward's Les Vosges

June 24, 2013

Tags: Edward, cafés and restaurants

When I was inventing Les Vosges, a crowded, unpretentious neighborhood eating place near Les Halles, Manet’s crowded Café hovered vaguely in the back of my mind (more for its atmosphere than the exact look of the place). The beer mugs certainly fit with an Alsatian restaurant. The customers still in their outer wraps and the fogged window suggest an inelegant but popular place. The woman looks pleased, and I’d like to think it’s because the food and the beer are good. (more…)

Les Halles

June 20, 2013

Tags: Edward, Paris landmark, dogs, shopping

After his fencing less, Edward finds himself in the vicinity of Les Halles, the great covered food market of central Paris. Outside its steel-and-glass structure, street vendors gathered in the open air as Gilbert depicts them here and as they still gather in the tree-shaded squares of smaller towns in France on market days.

NB: an inquisitive dog on the loose in the lower right-hand corner and two more cheerfully settled behind a stand.

Fencing Lesson

June 17, 2013

Tags: fencing, illustration

After his walk in the Tuileries Garden, Edward takes his first lesson at Pierre Artaud’s fencing studio. Edward’s ambivalent taste for the sport gave me a way to dramatize his inner conflicts about chivalry and aggression. Fencing was an important sport throughout the 19th C in France and Germany, partly because real duels (though illegal) were still fought in both countries. Fencing manuals from the period and articles in popular periodicals about both the sport and duels gave me confidence in inventing M. Artaud’s establishment.

A First Lesson is a screen shot from Theodore Child, “Duelling in Paris” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. 74, no. 442 (March 1887), p 533.

Tuileries Garden

June 13, 2013

Tags: Edward, Paris landmark, Tuileries, Cox, gardens

On a fall visit to Paris, Edward walks through the Tuileries Garden as evening descends. Imagine him walking the wide path to the left in Pissarro’s painting, which also captures the bare trees that for a moment carry Edward's mind back to Shiloh. The detail that ducks left rippling wakes in the big round pool seen on the center left margin of the painting comes in a letter from Kenyon Cox, an Ohio art student who was in Paris in the late 1870’s. The woman buying roasted chestnuts for her children at the entrance to the garden was inspired by a print or painting that I saw on line. If anybody happens to know of one, please send me the link!

Kiosk

June 10, 2013

Tags: Amy, Jeanette, Edward, Béraud, Boulevard des Capucines, Rue Scribe, Paris landmark, Haussmann, fashion or clothes, dogs, kiosk, street views

At the end of their stay in Pont Aven, Amy proclaims herself ready again for the rough and tumble of Paris; and once back in the city, Jeanette discovers that she no longer feels like a new girl. I had a framed print of Béraud’s Kiosk beside my chair as I wrote Where the Light Falls : it set the mood perfectly.

The urbane gentleman on the right is dressed as Edward dresses when he goes out for his walks. What I noticed first, though, were the two women prettily lifting their skirts to negotiate the streets—Baron Haussmann’s clean, clean streets and wide pavements, where a lady could walk in city shoes. Jeanette would have visited this very intersection of the Rue Scribe and Boulevard des Capucines on her way from her bank to the Académie Julian. (more…)

Swiss Interlude

June 6, 2013

Tags: Edward, Monet, Theodore, light

Geographical accuracy is one thing, inspiration another. Although Sainte-Addresse is on the coast of Normandy, not in Switzerland, in imagination I transferred the atmosphere of Monet’s seaside garden to a lakeside hotel terrace for Edward and Theodore’s conversation about Kiel and the Louvre. All the while that I pictured lawns sloping down to Lake Constance and mountains across the lake, this painting of full sun on bright nasturtiums, geraniums, and gladiolus, of flags snapping in the breeze, and an expanse water with boats also shaped the scene for me. Instead of viewing it from a high above, however, I squatted just behind and between the brothers.

Painting a bug

June 5, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Amy, plein air

BLOG TIP: In Pont Aven, Jeanette draws a cartoon of Amy's reaction to a bug on her canvas. For a video glimpse of James Gurney painting a seventeen-year cicada outdoors using some specially designed homemade artist's equipment, click here.

Bathers

June 3, 2013

Tags: Amy, Cézanne, Eakins, Emily, Jeanette, Pont Aven, Zorn, nudes

French artistic training in the 19th C centered on the nude figure, which was easily incorporated into paintings with classical subjects. Artists of modern life who wanted to put their training to use took up bathers as a subject, as Anders Zorn’s Against the Current illustrates the topic. My actual inspiration for the scene in which Jeanette, Amy, and Emily go swimming at Pont Aven was his painting Out, for which I cannot find a large reproduction online. I loved the way the figures in that painting are tonally part of the landscape, as they are in a related painting Opal.

EDIT: Well! Late in the day of this post, I have just double-checked the link to Zorn's Opal and been taken to the correct write-up but the wrong painting at the Worcester Art Museum. A weird computer glitch, which I hope becomes self-correcting. At least, the Eakins and Cezanne links below work! (more…)

Monet, Sargent, and "Impressionism"

June 2, 2013

Tags: Sargent, Monet, Impressionism

BLOG TIP: Check out yesterday’s informative GurneyJourney blog post on how John Singer Sargent and Claude Monet defined Impressionism and what they had to say about each other’s art.