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

Cluny

December 30, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Paris landmark

I spent a semester in France as an undergraduate. A visit to the Cluny that sophomore year fed my interest in the Middle Ages, later my field of specialization in graduate school. When I read that women art students in the 19th C valued the opportunity its enclosed gardens offered them to work outdoors unmolested, I knew I had to send Jeanette there. (more…)

British Library images

December 29, 2013

Tags: Edward, Rome

Blog Tip! From a post at The History Blog, I’ve just learned about a million 17th, 18th, and 19th C images released by the British Library to its Flickr account. The view of the Appian Way shown here reminds me of the countryside around Rome that Edward and Carl would have seen. If you have ideas about how to use the new release or find an image that strikes your fancy in any way, please share your thoughts and discoveries!

Romance in the Luxembourg Garden

December 26, 2013

Tags: Edward, Jeanette, Paris landmark, Sargent, cafés and restaurants, fashion or clothes, gardens, light

From the time I started writing, Sargent’s painting of a couple strolling in the Luxembourg Garden was a key image for me. Edward and Jeanette. The fountain. The fashion silhouette of the woman’s dress (no bustle). Touches of red. Light. (more…)

Joyeux Noël!

December 25, 2013

Tags: Christmas, Effie, Jeanette, Vann

On their first Christmas Eve in Paris, Jeanette and Effie go to services at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. On Christmas Day in both 1878 and 1879, they attend services at The American Church in Paris on the rue de Berri, (more…)

Puppets in the Park

December 23, 2013

Tags: Angelica, Christmas, Effie, entertainment

It’s December 23rd, the day Cousin Effie takes Angelica to a marionette show in the park, so I’m going to leave Jeanette and Edward in the summertime Luxembourg Garden and detour into Christmas. Well, I admit it's also summer in Ellen Houghton's picture of a puppet show in the leafy Tuileries Garden, (more…)

Fuchs’ iris

December 19, 2013

Tags: Edward, Degas, painting in the novel

Gardening history is one of my hobbies, and I enjoyed giving Edward a pleasure I would dearly love to have had, namely, coming across a single illustration from Leonhart Fuchs’ illustrated herbal of 1542 at a stall by the river Seine.

Edward feels confident in buying it partly because of what he has learned from a (more…)

Arc de Triomphe

December 16, 2013

Tags: Paris landmark, Adeline, Jeanette, transportation

This loosely painted detail of the distant Arc de Triomphe in the background of Hassam’s
painting of the Champs Elysées
is the kind of thing I had in mind when Jeanette sarcastically suggests sketching Adeline Vann in the Tuileries Garden with the arch just (more…)

House of Worth

December 12, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Effie, Adeline, Charles Frederick Worth, fashion or clothes, illustration

After I ran across a footnote to George Augustus Sala’s Paris Herself Again in 1878, I was delighted to find a cheap used set. Now both volumes have been digitized and can be read on-line here and here. Sala has an amusing journalistic style, and from him I picked up all sorts of details about Parisian life as a visitor would see it during the time of the World’s Fair that celebrated France’s recovery from the Franco-Prussian War.

A passage on Charles Frederick Worth, for instance, gave me circumstantial details for Jeanette and Effie’s trip with Adeline Vann (more…)

Blue dress at the café

December 9, 2013

Tags: Edward, Forain, Jeanette, Impressionism, Parisiénne, fashion or clothes

While I was writing, the concept of "the male gaze” seemed more pertinent to feminist art history than to my novel. What made me chortle gleefully when I first saw At the Café by Forain was not the trio of repellent oglers, but that blue dress on the Parisiénne. Wouldn’t Jeanette love to see herself in it! Wouldn’t she love the hat! Let’s face it, she might even have enjoyed attracting the notice of strangers (she does want to be a star). But surely not these strangers: Edward was right to be dubious about the milieu and the people depicted. (more…)

Cassatt's blue chair

December 5, 2013

Tags: Cassatt, Edward, Impressionism, Jeanette, exhibition, painting in the novel, women artists

I had Jeanette and Edward react to Mary Cassatt’s Portrait of a Little Girl at the 4th Impressionist Exhibition for several reasons. First and obviously, it fell in with a focus on women painters. Second, the tilting of the picture plane, influenced by Japanese woodcuts, was an important upending of pictorial convention at the time, and I wanted to show how the older Edward could in some ways be more open to the avant-garde than a typical art student like Jeanette who was invested in the prevailing conventions at the very time they were about to fall. (more…)

Man with a boat

December 2, 2013

Tags: Caillebotte, Degas, Edward, Effie, Impressionism, Jeanette, exhibition, painting in the novel

Whether Pissarro's Turkeys hung in the 4th Impressionist show (1879) or not, Caillbotte's Man Docking His Skiff certainly did. Because I had the good luck to see it in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and could examine the actual weave of the canvas and brushstrokes it went onto a short list of paintings for my characters to see, too. What fires the imagination is what matters the most in writing fiction. (more…)