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

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

Tags

Quick Links

Find Authors

Picturing a World

Croizette and Bernhardt

October 31, 2013

Tags: Bernhardt, Croizette, entertainment, garden party

One of the better readers of my manuscript objected to having the two actresses appear at the garden party (too hokey), but I thought a little razzle-dazzle was called for. Besides, don’t we all get a kick out of a celebrity cameo appearance?

When I began my research, Sophie Croizette was discovery for me. (more…)

Cendre de rose

October 28, 2013

Tags: Stevens, Jeanette, fashion or clothes, fans, garden party

Before it came time to design Jeanette’s costume for Cornelia’s garden party, I had seen Stevens' Summer at the Francine and Sterling Clark Art Institute. I went back. Perfect! On Jeanette’s budget, it had to be modified—among other things, fewer ruffles—but I loved the suggestion of a color for her, a grayish pink, ash rose, rose cinders (Cinderella at the ball?).

For an actual dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum that is somewhat similar, click here and look at the second dress on the second row.

For a large selection of French fashion plates from the 1870’s at the New York Public Library, click here.

For Griselda Pollock's discussion of Stevens' paintings of the four seasons at the Clark, click here.

Renicks’ garden

October 24, 2013

Tags: Renicks, gardens, garden party

Garden history is one of my interests, and this image of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte shows the 17th C garden designed by the great André Le Nôtre that led to his being hired by Louis XIV to design the gardens at Versailles. It perfectly expresses the Baroque æsthetic that dominated French gardens for the next 150 years. By the last quarter of the 19th C, such formality had given way to the more naturalistic styles. In my novel, however, the Renicks take pleasure in having been able to restore their garden to its 18th C splendor. I visualized their garden as smaller than this but large even so and also shaded on the sides by trees grown old by the 1870’s.

During my research, I visited the Musée Rodin, which gave me an image of the back of the Renicks' house and allowed me to visualize a large garden in the heart of Paris.

Edward's apartment

October 21, 2013

Tags: Caillebotte, Edward, street views

When he returns to Paris from Rome, Edward sublets an apartment on the Right Bank in a new, comfortable district of straight boulevards, harmonious architecture, and no haunting history. Some critics claim that painters of urban modernity in the last quarter of the 19th C depicted alienation and emptiness. They would call your attention to how far Caillebotte’s solitary viewer is removed from the street. But to me, standing as he is at ease above a boulevard lined with trees and handsome buildings, the man suggests Edward: alone perhaps, yet content to contemplate the gifts of civilization and peace in contrast to the horrors of war.

For a street-level view by Caillebotte of the same sort of neighborhood (and solitary man), click here.

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

October 20, 2013

Tags: fashion or clothes, Impressionism

Blog Tip: A review of the current Chicago version of the exhibition Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity is well illustrated and informative. Thank you, Two Nerdy History Girls.

Velázquez , Velázquez , Velázquez

October 18, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Velázquez

Museum tip: Carolus-Duran constantly invoked the work of Velázquez. For those of you traveling to Spain this winter, a major exhibition at the Prado in Madrid, Velázquez and the Family of Philip IV, runs October 8, 2013–February 9, 2014. For the catalogue of a past show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that focused on the 19th C French response to Velázquez, click here.

Equestriénne

October 17, 2013

Tags: Cornelia, Edward, Carolus-Duran, Sophie Croizette, fashion or clothes, horses, painting in the novel

When I first came across this painting, I thought of Cornelia Renick, who had been a rider. Here was her outfit. Then I learned that the woman in the painting was Carolus-Duran’s sister-in-law, the actress Sophie Croizette, a star of the Comédie Française. Yippee! Cornelia presses Edward to attend her garden party by dangling Croizette’s attendance as bait. Edward remembers having seen an engraving of this very painting. Since I made up Edward’s magazine, the engraving is fictional—though if anyone knows of a real one, please tell us about it in a comment!

Lucy Lee Robbins

October 14, 2013

Tags: Lucille Dobbs, Lucy Lee Robbins, Carolus-Duran, Cassatt, women artists

The character Lucille Dobbs is based only very loosely on this portrait of Lucy Lee Robbins, an American who studied with Carolus-Duran in the 1880’s. Although Robbins was considered for the prize of painting a mural in the Women’s Building at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, she was said by Mrs. Palmer Potter to be “not above reproach” (more…)

Telegrams

October 10, 2013

Tags: Béraud, Jeanette, Effie, fashion or clothes, Parisiénne

After Carolus-Duran has accepted Jeanette into his atelier for women, Cousin Effie lends her funds for the first month’s tuition. The paragraph in which Jeanette telegraphs her father with an urgent request for money to repay Effie was trimmed out during editing, but is still there by implication since Judge Palmer’s grim return telegrams remain in the text. And for that implied incident (the incident that to my mind happens!) Béraud provides the perfect illustration. Notice even the white glove on the woman’s left hand (Americans were known for their white cotton gloves). This Parisiénne may be better dressed than Jeanette could afford, but the style seems right for 1879. (more…)

Café Cagniard

October 7, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Effie, Robbie, Carolus-Duran, Sargent, Beckwith, cafés and restaurants

I broke into a grin at the Boston Public Library when I read in an article that Pére Cagniard’s café at 23, rue Bréa was frequented by Carolus-Duran and his students, including Sargent. This painting from Sargent’s second year of studying with Carolus inspired me to invent a picture of the owner’s daughter to hang on (more…)

Carolus-Duran (2)

October 3, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Effie, Jeanette, Sargent, studio

Although I did not try to dramatize a scene in which either Carolus-Duran or John Singer Sargent played a keyboard instrument, it was tempting, for both were superb musicians. Carolus's organ was notable among the many props and objets d'art in his studio. Sometimes he played it to distract restless children who sat (more…)