Katherine Keenum


A blog about the paintings, photographs, and prints that help me visualize my fiction—both Where the Light Falls and works-in-progress. My main current project is a novel tentatively entitled ANONYMITY. Its heroine works in publishing, belongs to a clandestine suffragist group, and has a married lover. Read on!

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

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Picturing a World

Summer Adventure starts tomorrow

July 31, 2013

Tags: Summer Adventure blog tour

For the next two weeks, this space will be filled by special posts from the authors of ten novels perfectly suited for deck chair adventures of travel, romance, mystery, and exploration. Each day all ten of us will post the day's adventure, so you can always start here or go directly to the website or Facebook page of any of the other participants: Alison Atlee (The Typewriter Girl), Jessica Brockmole (Letters from Skye), T. J. Brown (Summerset Abbey: Spring Awakening), Sarah Jio (The Last Camellia), Susanna Kearsley (The Firebird), Stephanie Lehmann (Astor Place Vintage), Kate Noble (Let It Be Me), Deanna Raybourn (A Spear of Summer Grass), and Lauren Willig (The Ashford Affair).

After each post, one copy of the day’s book will be given away, with a set of all ten as grand prize. ANY of the authors’ sites or Facebook pages will keep you updated on the day’s giveaway and how to enter. Bon voyage!

From autumn back to summer …

July 29, 2013

Vacation alert: Starting Thursday, Picturing a World will be one of ten blogs on an itinerary for a Summer Adventure running August 1-14, 2013. The tour includes giveaways of the ten books pictured here. More details soon.

Autumn street scene

July 29, 2013

Tags: light, street views

When Sonja is ready to begin work on portrait medallions for Edward, she and Jeanette walk one silvery, wet night from La Poupée en Bas to the studio on the Rue Madame. I’d say Hassam’s picture depicts October rather than November, and the hour is obviously closer to sunset than true darkness. Still, it is the sort of streetscape that helped me imagine Paris in various seasons and lights. Notice especially here, the streetlamps and shop widows in the misty distance horizontally across the middle third of the painting.

Research

July 25, 2013

Tags: Edward, Eakins, Rembrandt, Sorollo

The Spanish painter Sorolla captures the intensity of a 19th C scientific researcher and his colleagues in a laboratory. Outside science fiction, the topic of scientific research is not much explored in art or literature (some of my own chapter was edited out). In painting, I can think of only a few medical examples, (more…)

Baby faces

July 22, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Morisot, sketches, women artists

When Amy hires a young mother with a baby to model for the afternoon class at the Académie Julian one week, Jeanette makes studies of the child’s face for future reference and includes the sheet in the portfolio she shows to Carolus-Duran later in the novel. Morisot’s sketches depict a somewhat older child, a toddler, but illustrate the same need to jot down impressions of children quickly because they don’t stay still for long.

ADDENDUM: Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son!

Pâtisserie

July 18, 2013

Tags: Béraud, cafés and restaurants

My editor teased me one time about how often my characters go to pâtisseries to buy pastry or have a cup of chocolate. Well, wouldn’t you if there were places like this available? When I invented my fictional Petit Honoré, I did not imagine either so high a ceiling or so grand a space, but I love visiting La Pâtisserie Gloppe via Béraud’s painting. Some of Jeanette and Effie’s visits to bakeries, cafés, and tea shops were edited out, but feel free to re-imagine as many as you like—and if you want to send them to the Gloppe, the address was no. 6, Champs Élysées. They’ll love it! Also, if you know of a teashop or bakery that continues to offer this kind of ambiance and gustatory delight, please let us know in the comments.

Café Tortoni

July 15, 2013

Tags: Robbie, Jeanette, Effie, Emily, cafés and restaurants, kiosk, street views

The Café Tortoni was a real place, posh and successful for most of the 19th C. Martial’s etching shows the Morris column or advertising kiosk that Robbie pretends to be perusing when Jeanette, Cousin Effie, and Emily arrive expecting to be treated to its famous ice cream. (more…)

Noggins

July 11, 2013

Tags: Noggins, Robbie, caricature, illustration

From the sublimity of Friday's Rembrandt to the absurdity of Punch today! Punch was my model for Noggins, the humor magazine to which Robbie Dolson contributes his satirical article about lady painters at the Breton seacoast. I read enough passages to have fun writing a pastiche, but I did not go so far as to mock up Noggins pages. Are any of you historical fiction writers also re-enactors? If so, what you have done and how has it affected your writing?

To read many volumes of Punch on line, click here.

Flight into Egypt

July 8, 2013

Tags: Rembrandt, Renicks, Jeanette, Edward, Charlie Post, painting in the novel, light

The Renicks’ copy of Rembrandt’s Flight allowed me to show Edward and Jeanette reacting together to the same evocative object but with different emotional responses. In this scene, the painting embodies emotional light and shadow, the need for safety and the longing for transcendence. In general, it illustrates artists’ concern for sources of light and where the falls. The hidden moon also echoes Charlie Post’s sickle moon, and the fire adds that touch of red or warm color that plays into several compositions in the book.

View from a studio window

July 5, 2013

Tags: Effie, Nourse, studio, street views, women artists

An artist about whom I read a lot at the beginning of my research was Cincinnati-born Elizabeth Nourse (1859–1938)), Jeanette's almost exact contemporary. She, too, studied at the Académie Julian (beginning in 1887) and made her career in Paris, where she lived with her sister. This view from her studio window fell in with my own (and Jeanette's!) love of pictures painted or photographed out of upper-storey windows. I gave Mabel Reade a studio on the Rue d'Assas because of this very image and had Cousin Effie talk her way into a studio more expensive than Amy and Sonja could afford for the same reason. (more…)

Lay Figure

July 1, 2013

Tags: Degas, cafés and restaurants, model

The carelessly thrown woman at the feet of painter Henri Michel-Levy is a lay figure. These were mannequins, usually made of wood, that artists used as models in place of a live person (who would have to be paid). Jeanette’s friends would never have allowed their Poupée to sprawl so awkwardly, considering her, as they did, a mascot to be treated with affection.

For John Fergus Weir’s wonderful image of an undressed lay figure that shows its construction, click here. And for the first of a wonderfully informative series of blog posts on lay figures by Dinotopia artist James Gurney and links to the rest, click here.