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

Time to write

January 29, 2015

Newcomers, welcome! This is my blog devoted primarily to illustrating the world of Where the Light Falls and thinking about how images can shape stories. Please explore the archives. Beginning in November 2012, the posts follow the novel more or less chronologically. Tags direct you to topics more analytically. I promise earlier posts (more…)

Winter in New York

January 26, 2015

Tags: Cornoyer, transportation, Académie Julian

Given the recent snow and ice here in the Northeast, I’ve been thinking about why books set in winter appeal. Even though the action of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is directed toward delivering Narnia from the grip of the White Witch, it’s the snow you remember, the (more…)

Thoughts on writing

January 23, 2015

Tags: fantasy, illustration, women artists

Blog tip: Writer, artist, and editor Terry Windling posts today on Stories that matter. She quotes other writers who share her philosophy (and mine) that real writing is what you must do because you can't not do it. The post is illustrated with fantasy images by Nadeshda Illarionova, whose pictures could easily inspire a fairy tale of your own. Check'em out!

Studio party

January 22, 2015

Tags: Beaux, Scandinavian artists, Salon, studio

This engraving of Gunnar Berndston's depiction of a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper appears in The Illustrated Catalogue of the Paris Salon for 1882. Such an engraved image might seem inadequate to eyes accustomed to photographic reproduction, yet turning the pages of the Salon catalogues in the research library of The Clark was a wonderful way to grasp the scope of the annual exhibitions. To see what I mean, click here for the next year's catalogue

In the 1882 catalogue, a few pictures seemed to leap out illustratively for Where the Light Falls. This one reminded me of (more…)

Women on an omnibus

January 19, 2015

Tags: Cassatt, women artists, transportation

It’s hard to know why some topics fascinate us. I ride public transportation whenever I can; maybe that's why depictions of riders in a train or on an omnibus always catch my eye. For my fiction, moreover, it just seems part of world-building to know how my characters get from one place to another and how long it takes them. Mary Cassatt's In the Omnibus" reminds me of crossing the Charles River on the Red Line in Boston during the day when the cars are sometimes uncrowded. For Daumier's more typically crowded omnibus, click here. (more…)

Hat for Jeanette?

January 17, 2015

Tags: Jeanette, Scandinavian artists, fashion or clothes

Blog tip: Click here for one of several recent posts on hats at It’s About Time. Liljelund’s young woman (and her bangs) caught my eye because she reminds me of Jeanette, who loves clothes but needs to develop a fashion sense.

Wish I'd seen Bauck in time

January 15, 2015

Tags: Bauck, Wegmann, Scandinavian artists, women artists

It is gratifying to run across paintings (like Vollon’s Mound of Butter) that seem to jump right out of the world of my novel, but here’s one I wish I had seen while I was writing. What an engaging gaze!

The subject of Danish artist Bertha Wegmann’s portrait’—the Swedish-born Jeanna Bauck (1840–1926)—would have been Edward's contemporary (more…)

Mound of Butter

January 11, 2015

Tags: Jeanette

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across this painting by Antoine Vollon, which brought to mind the night that Jeanette proposes to Amy and Sonja, “You know what we should do? Set up studies from a dairy shop: eggs, those big mounds of butter, and round cheeses—think of all the fat shapes.” (more…)

Woman reading

January 11, 2015

Tags: Bashkirtseff, women artists

Blog tip: I’ve just discovered Bas van Houwelingen’s long-running blog Reading and Art. Each post features a single artist’s images of people reading. For more from Bashkirtseff, click here.


January 8, 2015

Like many bloggers, I post a day or two in advance. If I were adept at Photoshop, I might alter this morning’s restaurant image to show blood on the sidewalk. Many cartoonists and other artists, shocked by yesterday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo, have risen to the occasion with new work. Let us all be grateful.

Petit Honoré

January 8, 2015

Tags: cafés and restaurants, street views

It was great fun to invent the Petit Honoré where Robbie Dolson takes Jeanette and Effie instead of to Tortoni’s—so much fun that I made the café a favorite of Effie’s. (Generally speaking, if someone or something is important enough to (more…)

Black hats

January 5, 2015

Tags: Carlson-Bredberg, Hale, Scandinavian artists, fashion or clothes, women artists

(l) Ellen Day Hale, Self-Portrait (1885); (r) Mina Carlsson-Bredberg, Study, Académie Julian
After I saw Manet’s Woman Reading, I came across these two pictures, both by students in the 1880’s, both of women with the same sort of bangs and ears showing, each wearing a soft-crowned black hat. Could they be the same student?!? (more…)

Happy New Year's Day

January 1, 2015

Tags: Jeanette, Manet, Parisiénne, fashion or clothes, cafés and restaurants

On this first day of January, would that we could all be sitting, smartly dressed, in a Parisian garden-café or brasserie!

When I first saw Manet’s painting early in my writing of Where the Light Falls, I did a joyous double-take. Here was (more…)