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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Picturing a World

Copies and what came after

March 31, 2014

Tags: Schjerfbeck, Velázquez, copyist, women artists, Scandinavian artists

Art students in the 19th C studied older artists’ paintings by copying them,Velázquez being a favorite. Many continued the practice throughout their careers. The work of Jeanette’s contemporary, Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946), shows how interesting the copies could be and how different their original work eventually became. (more…)

What women can accomplish

March 27, 2014

Web link: Looky, looky! A lovely recommendation in Denver for Where the Light Falls as one of three novels that expand consciousness of what women can accomplish. Thank you, Barbara Steinhauser!


March 27, 2014

Tags: copyist, fans, fashion or clothes, Jeanette, Louvre

Early in my research when I was discovering that there were indeed women art students in Paris in the late 19th C, I came across this copyist. I have loved her and giggled over her ever since. Wouldn’t Jeanette have longed for that dress? But can any painter, even one who prefers watercolors (more…)

Rodolphe Julian

March 24, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, Beaury-Sorel, Rodolphe Julian, schools, sketches

Mention of Rodolphe Julian (1839–1907) in last week’s post on the clothed model made me realize that I should post on Julian himself—and, lo, another kneeling figure.

Born (and buried) in the village of Lapalud, Haut Vaucluse, in Provence, he was sent at an early age to Marseille to work in a bookstore. In the store he read (more…)

Emily Brontë sketches a place

March 21, 2014

Tags: sketches

Blog tip: Oh, the serendipitous discoveries available on the web! Emily Brontë left sketches? I never knew until I was taking a break and came upon this picture Sketchers too, an archived post at the blog Sketchuniverse. Does anyone know whether this illustrates a story Brontë wrote? Is anyone inspired to write one based on it? (more…)

Drums at the Tuileries Garden

March 20, 2014

Tags: Edward, Tissot, Tuileries, Paris landmark

"The naked upper branches reached toward a primordial wildness having little to do with parks or men.… The trees at Shiloh had been like that.… In the growing dusk, golden lights pricked out the Rue de Rivoli to his left.… At the rat-a-tat-tat of a drum being beaten to signal the closing hour, he felt a momentary urge to flout the martial-sounding order."

I was looking for a different painting by James Tissot last week (more…)

Visual narrative

March 18, 2014

Blog tip: At his blog, Illustration Art, David Apatoff has recently run a series of posts on comic strips and graphic novels, called “The Lost Vocabulary of Visual Storytelling.” Day 4 discusses jumping from the start of an action in one panel to the result in the next. Any thoughts on when skipping is effective in written narrative?

Mary Hamer's blog

March 17, 2014

Tags: Hamer

Blog tip: Mary Hamer has graciously played host to a guest blog post from me on handling historical figures in Where the Light Falls. Check it out!

Clothed model

March 17, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, Rodolphe Julian, costumes, sketches

When Jeanette first goes to the Académie Julian, Rodolphe Julian explains that he offers three classes to women in which the models are nude, draped, or fully clothed. The last was intended primarily for amateurs whose embarrassment at naked flesh could be accommodated. Nevertheless, the folds of clothing also required careful study as (more…)


March 13, 2014

Tags: Atget, Paris landmark, photograph, work-in-progress

Time for a photograph at the blog, I thought: I’ll do a post on Eugène Atget. As it happens, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a show up through May 9th, Paris as Muse: Photography, 1840s–1950s, where Atget's Quai d'Anjou can be seen.

I looked at a lot of Atget's photographs (more…)

Inspired by places

March 12, 2014

Blog tips for writers: I respond strongly to places and imagining settings is important to me in writing fiction. Recently I began saving photographs from the British Geograph website with first lines for stories I might write some day. In one of life’s weird coincidences, I’ve just run across a couple of posts at the Steamed: Writing Steampunk Fiction blog (more…)

Duval restaurant

March 10, 2014

Tags: Effie, Jeanette, Renoir, cafés and restaurants

To make a world real, it seems to me you have to know what people ate and where and when. When the Duval restaurants turned up early in my research I knew I could use them; and Renoir's painting of a Duval waitress became a touchstone image for me. Not only the quietly respectable young woman but the figured wallpaper and curtains suggested a feminine air that would be reassuring to Jeanette and Effie.

Pierre Louis Duval, a butcher, began selling servings of a meat cooked in broth to workers ca. 1855. From this venture grew a chain of restaurants. They were clean, well-run places where women on a budget could eat safely. (more…)

Three figures

March 8, 2014

Tags: Edward, Effie, Jeanette, Sargent

Blog tip: I’m exploring a blog new to me, Poul Webb’s Art & Artists. Its posts on individual artists are illustrated by many images. This one comes from a post on early John Singer Sargent and demonstrates Sargent’s ease and his unconventional cropping. Jeanette notices both when she sees his sketch of Mrs. Renick. It also illustrates the awareness of flesh that she must take for granted in her class for the nude despite the way it upsets Effie and disquiets Edward.


March 6, 2014

Tags: nudes, sketches

When Jeanette and Amy take up the full nude at the Académie Julian in the fall of 1879, they have taken informal anatomy lessons from Wee Willie Winkham, based on the skeleton he owns as a medical student. Know the Skeleton, a recent post at (more…)

Camera obscura

March 5, 2014

Web tip: At her website, artist Jane Morris has a very interesting essay on the Vermeer Project that she conducted with her students. She describes building a camera obscura, investigating its use, and exploring problems that arose. With illustrations.

Guest Post from Mary Hamer, author of Kipling & Trix

March 3, 2014

Tags: Hamer, Kipling

I’d be surprised if many people on first sight of this drawing thought ‘Oh that must be Rudyard Kipling’. We’re much more used to photographs of him bald and spectacled, taken later in his life. In fact, this pencil drawing is the only image of (more…)

Guest Post alert! Coming Monday!

March 2, 2014

Tomorrow, I am lucky enough to have a guest post from Mary Hamer, author of the prize-winning historical novel, Kipling & Trix. Did you know that Rudyard Kipling had a sister who also wrote fiction? He did. Check here tomorrow to learn more about how Mary used images, including a rare photograph of "Trix" to visualize the two title characters of her fascinating novel.