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

Hotel Baudy

June 30, 2014

Tags: Giverny, MacMonnies, art colony

Doesn’t the animation in the faces of both tennis players and the spectator bring the past to life? It says to me, Invent a story!

The photo is one of many at a French-language website on the Hotel Baudy. In the story of every summer art colony, (more…)

Mary Fairchild MacMonnies at Giverny

June 26, 2014

Tags: Giverny, Low, MacMonnies, art colony, women artists

In 1895, two married, successful artists, Frederick and Mary Fairchild MacMonnies, bought an old priory in the town of Giverny, where Claude Monet was the reigning artistic deity. High walls enclosed their house, studios, and a terraced garden, which became a center of activity for the American art colony drawn to Giverny.

A frequent visitor was Will Hicok Low. During my research, I read his amusing and generous-hearted book A Chronicle of Friendships (1908) with pleasure. To see one of his paintings of the MacMonnies’ garden, click here. For one of her garden paintings, click here.

A nursery for the MacMonnies children with Mary’s copies of murals by Puvis de Chavannes on the back wall exemplifies the MacMonnies’ way of making their home as ideal a world as possible. Unfortunately, Frederick had affairs with (more…)

Women, art, and marriage

June 23, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, Bracquemond, Carolus-Duran, Cassatt, Gonzalés, Morisot, marriage, women artists

When Amy Richardson and Louise Steadman confront Jeanette with the need to choose between art and love, they remind her of Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot, whose opportunities to show were sadly curtailed by marriage. They also point out that Mary Cassatt knew better than to get married. For a well illustrated post on (more…)

Club for women artists

June 19, 2014

Tags: Nieriker, women artists

During my earliest research, I read Studying Art Abroad, and How To Do It Cheaply by May Alcott Nieriker (1879) in the Boston Public Library. (How I yearned for my own copy! How easy now to read it on line!) A couple of sentences struck me forcibly and ultimately pointed to part of my dénouement: (more…)

Artists' supplies

June 18, 2014

Tags: Sargent

Website tip: The website of the National Portrait Gallery in London has a useful essay on John Singer Sargent's suppliers of artists' materials.

Salon of 1880

June 16, 2014

Tags: Jeanette, Salon, exhibition

The Salon of 1880 was so big that paintings had to be hung on the mezzanine above the sculptures for lack of space in the picture galleries. For the first time, they were also divided into sections for French artists and foreigners. While I was writing, I debated whether to have Jeanette win a place. The historical odds were against it, and I wanted her story to represent what a typical female student experienced. (more…)

Polish woman artist

June 15, 2014

Tags: women artists

Website tips:Look! Another woman artist from Poland in a blog post on paintings of women with parasols or umbrellas. For more about Boznanska at Culture.PL, click here.

Canvas stretcher

June 14, 2014

BLOG TIP. Sonja not only attempts to build a frame, she regularly stretches her own canvases. To see how it’s done, click on Darren Rousar’s blog post, Stretching Primed Canvas.


June 12, 2014

Tags: Sonja, Académie Julian, Bilinska-Bohdanowicz, women artists

Given Sonja’s friendship with sculptors, disregard of clothes, and brawn, is it any wonder that I exclaimed “Sonja!” when I ran across this image? I love imagining her sitting on the floor while she’s building her big picture frame for a Salon submission—although she would be in trousers.

The pose fits (more…)

Salon jury

June 9, 2014

Tags: Bouguereau, Carolus-Duran, Gervex, Salon, exhibition

In 1878–1880, the period of Where the Light Falls, submissions to the annual Salon were judged by an elected jury of artists. Anyone whose work had been accepted for previous Salons could vote, and the jurors were generally the most distinguished (and most conservative) artists of their day. Serving was an honor, but (more…)

Seed packets

June 7, 2014

Tags: work-in-progress

Blog tip: A garden with a Japanese theme plays a part in my work-in-progress. So does feminism. It tickled me, therefore, to find this seed packet and read today’s post at It’s About Time on pioneering seedswoman Carrie H. Lippincott.

Taking pictures to the Salon

June 5, 2014

Tags: Jeanette, Salon, exhibition, kiosk, transportation

When I ran across this illustration early in my research, I knew Jeanette must ride in an omnibus when she delivered her Salon entry. Omnibuses, in fact, became a minor motif in the novel for no particular thematic reason; I just like them. But the tension involved in submitting work to the Salon, its importance (more…)

What I'd like to do

June 4, 2014

Tags: women artists

Blog tip:Yesterday, my garden club met at my house. Today, this image appeared in a post at It’s About Time. Perfect!

To read more about the artist, Jane Sutherland (who was new to me), click here.

Renicks’ vestibule

June 2, 2014

Tags: Gay, painting in the novel, rooms

While I was imagining Jeanette’s painting of a vestibule in the Renicks’ house—the one Carolus-Duran commends and is accepted for the Salon—I had in mind the work of Walter Gay. During my research, I read about him and his wife, Matilda in A Charmed Couple by William Rieder.

What a pleasant life they led! (more…)