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

"New Pages "website

April 30, 2014

Website tip: I'm pleased to announce that this blog has been added to the Blogs by Poets & Writers" listings of the extremely informative website New Pages, which lives up to its motto, Engage Readers • Creative Writers • Start Here. Special thanks to Elaine Fowler Palencia for introducing me to the site.

Stereoscopic Salle des Maréchaux

April 29, 2014

Tags: Tuileries

Blog tip: For a slightly disconcerting view of the Salle des Maréchaux in the Tuileries Palace made from stereoscopic images taken in 1865, click here. Meissonier painted the ruins of this room in 1871, after the palace was burned.

Van Gogh’s hospital

April 28, 2014

Tags: Edward, Provence, Van Gogh, gardens

While I was working on Where the Light Falls, my husband and I visited this mental hospital in Arles. The courtyard has been restored to look much as it did when van Gogh was a patient. The (more…)

Clothes and the historical fiction writer

April 26, 2014

Tags: fashion or clothes

Blog tip: It's hard to know for sure what ordinary people wore for everyday work in the past because only fine clothes tend to be saved. For a thoughtful post on the problem by a writer of historical romance, click here.

Block that illustration!

April 24, 2014

Tags: fashion or clothes, illustration

Last week, I had the privilege of privately visiting the library at Edith Wharton’s house in Lenox, Massachusetts, The Mount, where Nynke Dorhout, the librarian, showed me (among many other treasures) Wharton’s own first-edition copies of The House of Mirth (1905). (more…)

Les Collettes

April 21, 2014

Tags: Renoir, Provence

Working from the photographs, paintings, and—best of all for my purposes—elevation plans, plant lists, and a bird’s-eye layout in Derek Fell’s book Renoir’s Garden, I used Renoir’s estate, Les Collettes, near Cagnes to invent Dr. Aubanel’s (more…)

Noli me tangere

April 20, 2014

Tags: gardens

In the Bible, it is Mary Magdalene who first witnesses the Risen Christ (John 20:14–17). She mistakes for him a gardener until he reveals his true identity, whereupon he tells her not to touch him yet (“Noli me tangere” in the Vulgate Latin). (more…)


April 18, 2014

Tags: Carolus-Duran, sketches

Blog tip: In my fiction, I stay away from religion except for the externals, e.g., glances at my characters’ church attendance and Christmas. In recognition of the solemnity of Good Friday, however, I’m posting these studies as a reminder that artists have been drawn to religious topics throughout the ages. I first ran across the image in the archives of the Inspirational Artwork blog, which are worth exploring.

Sea at L’Estaque

April 17, 2014

Tags: Cézanne, Edward, Provence

Edward is discouraged by his first view outside the L’Estaque train station, but then Winkie turns him around to look out over the bay of Marseille. For another version of this painting, click here. For another view from higher up, click here. For others, click here, here, here, and here. (more…)

View from a train station

April 14, 2014

Tags: Cézanne, Edward, Provence, transportation

Originally, I had intended to give the Renicks’ a house in Aix-en-Provence, where I spent a semester my sophomore year in college, and place Dr. Aubanel’s sanatorium near its thermal springs. Jeanette and Effie were to stay for a longish visit and encounter Edward swimming in the river Arc, where Paul Cézanne and Êmile Zola swam as boys. (more…)

Carolus-Duran’s studio in L’Illustration

April 11, 2014

Tags: Carolus-Duran, studio

Article tip: Wondering how many digitized images from the 19th French weekly, L’Illustration, are now easily available on the web, I Googled its title plus “Carolus-Duran” and up popped scholar Rachel Esner’s well-illustrated article about the magazine’s depiction of artists’ studios in the 19th C. To read it, click here. L'Illustration's fee-for-use archive can be accessed through its home page.

Studio party

April 10, 2014

Tags: Trilby, fencing, illustration, studio

Trilby, a novel about art students in Paris by author and illustrator George du Maurier, was one of my richest sources for details and ambiance. This illustration contributed to (more…)

Salon Doré

April 8, 2014

Tags: Renicks, rooms

Blog tip: The reopening of the newly renovated Salon Doré at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco on April 5th is the subject of a fascinating blog post at The History Blog. The original hotêl's history and fate could be those of the Renicks' house.

Henri’s Jardin du Luxembourg

April 7, 2014

Tags: Henri, Paris landmark, gardens

After Jeanette completes Edward's portrait, they walk to the Luxembourg Garden. This painting of it by Robert Henri is reproduced in Barbara Weinberg’s book, The Lure of Paris:Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers (1991), my real introduction to the whole topic of an American woman studying art in Paris. Consequently, although the picture was painted twenty years after the action of my novel and in a later style, its vividness has been with me all along. (more…)

Women Painters of the World (1905)

April 6, 2014

Tags: women artists, work-in-progress

Web link: Check out the website of The Public Domain Review. I immediately found this this book on women painters from 1905, which Mattie my current heroine might give to Jeanette. No telling what what you'll find!

Henrietta Johnston, portraitist

April 4, 2014

Tags: women artists

Blog tip: For a blog post on the first known American woman portraitist, click here. Always worth keeping an eye on the blog, It's About Time!

Painting Edward’s portrait

April 3, 2014

Tags: Bauck, Jeanette, Wegmann, studio, women artists, Scandinavian artists

This painting by Jeanna Bauck (1840-1926) depicts a fancier, better equipped studio than Jeanette’s, but you can imagine my excitement when I found it last year—the right era, a woman assiduously painting a portrait of a sober-faced older man. (more…)

House of Pingat

April 2, 2014

Tags: fashion or clothes

Blog tip: Visit blogger SilkDamask's March 27th post for photo details of an 1878 party dress and diary extracts of its Chicago buyer's visit to the House of Pingat in Paris.

This not an April Fool …

April 1, 2014

Tags: Louvre, caricature, copyist, illustration, women artists

This is not an April Fool’s joke, but a genuine double-page spread. Anyone care to speculate on the sex of author and illustrator?