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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Portraits database

February 28, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, Curran

Charles Courtney Curran, The Artist's Wife (1890)
Web tip: Thanks to Polly Shulman for steering me to Fashioning History, a chronological database of portraits from prehistory to the 1930’s. To illustrate the sort of thing that can be found there, I chose this portrait by Charles Courtney Curran, because he was Jeanette’s contemporary and studied at the Académie Julian. Also because Polly and I like hats.


February 27, 2014

Tags: Henri, entertainment, work-in-progress

Robert Henri, Salome (1909)
As a follow-up to my last post, here’s a quick look ahead at naughty behavior in New York City in 1908, the setting for my current work-in-progress. I came across Robert Henri’s portrait of the dancer Mademoiselle Voclezca in a 1995 exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York. More astonishing to me than the painting were several paragraphs about a craze for “Salome dancers.” (more…)

Edible art

February 25, 2014

Blog Tip: Art and food lovers rejoice and hop over to Greer Gilman's post on a fund-raising scheme involving edible art. Surely we can think of a composition for Paris ca. 1879. A fondant Bouguereau nude?

Women of the night

February 24, 2014

Tags: Degas, Edward, cafés and restaurants

Degas’ pastel of two women sitting at a café table provided the image of a prostitute biting her thumb as a sign of availability. I didn’t think that Edward would be attracted to anyone in this picture, however, and so I imagined a younger, sadder example of a girl who had to (more…)

Pont Neuf

February 22, 2014

Tags: Béraud, Edward, Jeanette, Parisiénne, Paris landmark, dogs

Jeepers! I've just noticed that Thursday's post was not published. Better late than never, take a walk on the Pont Neuf!

When Jeanette returns from Pont Aven at the end of August 1879, she and Edward walk along Left Bank of the Seine on a Sunday afternoon. The scene is set farther down river than the Pont Neuf, but Béraud’s painting captures the casual, strolling ease that I wanted readers to feel.

Notice the Morris column advertising kiosk, the grille around the trees, the black-clad Parisiénne, and the little dog—recurring motifs for imagining Paris in this period.


February 18, 2014

Blog tip: Yesterday’s Gurney Journey blog post describes student competition in Paris art ateliers in 1900 and raises questions about the place of competition in teaching art today. The post and readers' comments interested me greatly. Writers and aspiring writers, in your experience does competition foster creativity or kill it? If you have thoughts, please share them in the comments.

Garden party in February

February 17, 2014

Tags: garden party

A snowy recent post at the Ephemeral New York blog site sent me to the marvellous website of The Phillips Collection, which somehow I had missed up to now. In general, Beal’s work is (more…)

Tree house restaurant

February 13, 2014

Tags: cafés and restaurants, photograph, Edward, Effie, Jeanette

The village of Plessis just outside Paris was the site of a restaurant built in 1848 as a tree house in honor of Swiss Family Robinson. Its popularity led to the town’s adopting the name Plessis-Robinson Meals in baskets—typically roast chicken, bread, and wine—were pulled up on ropes to customers. (more…)

Cousin Effie at last

February 10, 2014

Tags: Effie

For years, I’ve been on the lookout for a painting, drawing, or photograph that reminds me of Cousin Effie. She is very vivid in my mind, as are Jeanette’s drawings of her; but no luck—until, finally, up popped this image. Not perfect, but (more…)

Blizzard of 1902

February 8, 2014

Blog tip: Fittingly for this cold, snowy winter, the Bowery Boys have posted The first-ever film of a New York City Blizzard. Brrr. My new novel is set in the Big Apple in 1908, but my heroine arrived there in 1901. Now I know one thing she must remember from her first year!

Asleep on a train

February 6, 2014

Tags: Amy, Effie, Jeanette, photograph, transportation, work-in-progress

For my new novel, I’m investigating early 20th C photography and print processes. This picture of a girl asleep on a train appears (more…)

Class critique

February 3, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, illustration, studio, schools, women artists, Bouguereau

I recently came across this picture by Albert Guillaume. William Adolphe Bouguereau criticizing student work in Jeanette’s class at the Académie Julian? Not quite, but mighty close! It appears in the January 14, 1905, issue of the French weekly, L’Illustration, accompanying the magazine’s review of a play, La Massière by Jules Lemaître. (more…)