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

John Sloan as Trilby

July 31, 2014

Tags: Ashcan School, Sloan, Trilby

What can I say? You can’t help loving it when two enthusiasms overlap so wackily. The novel Trilby by George Du Maurier was a bestseller in the 1890’s. Known to all art students in Paris—and evidently, Philadelphia!—it is a wonderful source for (more…)

Marie Bracquemond at her easel

July 28, 2014

Tags: Bracquemond, Dammouse, women artists

I only recently found Dammouse’s pastel of Marie Braqemond at the Galerie Ary Jan in Paris (where it sold). The picture feels like reentering Jeanette’s world, and so it’s a good place to begin running through Where the Light Falls again, more or less chronologically.

My first ever post showed three women artists in a studio. Because I love novels in which I share friendships vicariously, Jeanette’s time with Amy, Emily, and Sonja was always a major theme for me. Another was the seriousness with which women artists worked in the 19th C—a dedication that seems evident in this image. (more…)

Not Mattie's world

July 26, 2014

Tags: fashion or clothes

Blog tip: My new heroine, Mattie, would never be presented at the Court of Saint James, not in 1907 or any other year. Still I loved coming across an itemized account of how much the clothes, the massage and the manicure cost for a debutante to be presented.

Mattie illicit lover

July 24, 2014

Tags: fashion or clothes, work-in-progress

In the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Mattie dresses for her job as a stenographer but daydreams about the coming evening with her lover as she puts on a sexy corset which she has bought from a fancy corsetiere. (more…)

55 books

July 23, 2014

Web post boast: Joy! Where the Light Falls is one of 55 books selected by Prevention to make you happier! To see them all, click here.

Mattie suffragist

July 21, 2014

Tags: suffrage, transportation

As my new novel opens, Mattie Palmer is at breakfast, skimming the morning newspapers. Her eye is caught by the story of a cross-country automobile trip (more…)

Mattie Stenographer

July 21, 2014

Tags: Mattie, fashion or clothes, light, offices, work-in-progress

As I tried to say last Thursday, I'll be writing more about my new work as well as Where the Light Falls. For instance, the stenographer shown here taking shorthand on her pad is younger than my new heroine, but I found the picture helpful in visualizing how Mattie might be dressed (shirt sleeves, no hat, pleated skirt) (more…)

Oops! Please try again

July 20, 2014

I have just opened last Thursday's post and found that a coding typo made most of it disappear. Sorry. I've made the necessary correction. Please do go back and read it since it lays out how I'm going to be proceding with the blog!!!!

Nancy Drew and a Clue to the Blog

July 17, 2014

Tags: Mattie, children's books, work-in-progress

Is there an American woman novelist writing today who did not read at least one Nancy Drew mystery as a girl? For many women over a certain age, the Nancy Drew books were favorite reading, as compulsive as Harry Potter.

In my family, they were taken for granted as pleasurable junk, tolerated because my (more…)

Bastille Day

July 14, 2014

Tags: Hassam, Monet, exhibition, Impressionism

As the entry on this painting at the Musée d’Orsay says, Monet painted it at an event connected with the 1878 World’s Fair—in fact, the occasion of the first public singing of La Marseillaise since the fall of the Second Empire and rise of the Third Republic. Nevertheless, it is often associated with Bastille Day (July 14th), so why not show it today? Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

In Where the Light Falls, Jeanette, Effie, and Edward see the painting at the 4th Impressionist Show. It also interests me because it has so clearly influenced Childe Hassam’s views of flag-draped streets in New York, e.g., The Fourth of July, 1916, or indeed, Paris in his July Fourteenth, Rue Daunou of 1910.

Just for the fun of it, click here for the stirring rendition of La Marseillaise in the greatest B-movie of them all, Casablanca (the song begins at minute 1.08).

Wallace water fountains

July 10, 2014

Tags: Franco-Prussian War, Paris landmark

Writers of historical fiction are susceptible to what someone called “research rapture,” elation over trivia. It may be just as well that I did not know about Wallace water fountains when I wrote Where the Light Falls or I might have gleefully included one whether it was needed or not.

A recent BBC piece on impoverished Britons in France alerted me to the existence of these public drinking fountains. (more…)

Congratulations, Greer Gilman!

July 8, 2014

Blog tip: Greer Gilman’s new novella, Exit, Pursued by a Bear has just gone to press and today she posted a gorgeous video of fireworks to celebrate. Hooray! For her own photos and description of last week’s extraordinary fireworks in Boston, click here. And, writers, for the kinds of things the most remarkable fantasist of our day thinks about and discusses, click here.

Monterey Peninsula Art Colony

July 7, 2014

Tags: frames, art colony, women artists

Monterey was not one of the summer artists’ colonies that I had studied when news of a 2006 exhibition, Artists at Continent’s End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907, set me wondering whether Jeanette might go there at some point in her life. (more…)


July 3, 2014

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Low, Nieriker, art colony, women artists

When I was researching summer artists’ colonies and first saw those striped socks on Robert A. M. Stevenson in Will Hicok Low’s A Chronicle of Friendships p. 209, I badly wanted to base a character on him for one of the artists at Pont Aven. (more…)