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


July 27, 2018

Tags: studio, women artists

Barriers to training and opportunity, and sheer prejudice are correctly cited as having held back women in the arts in the past (and now!). For painters, male and female, moreover, there was the cost of materials. Even easel-sized canvasses had to be paid for, as did pigments, brushes, props, and solvents. When I saw this image recently in a Gurney Journey blog post, it struck me that the sheer size of the support and apparatus required to produce a very large work meant that independent wealth, prior success, or an institutional commission was necessary before an artist could undertake the sort of grand works that won prestige in the 19th C. Poets and fiction writers were at an advantage when they could scribble away with no more investment than the cost of paper and pen. My main point, however, is that in visualizing a world for fiction, it’s the unexpected detail—like Detaille’s scaffolding—that can provide verisimilitude and possibly a plot twist.

Wegmann and Bauch

July 22, 2018

Tags: Scandinavian artists, women artists

Blog tip: This is one of around twenty portraits of Swedish artist Jeanna Bauck by her Danish friend Bertha Wegmann, who reciprocated with several portraits of Bauck. It appeared recently at a Gurney Journey post, one of several on artists painting each other’s portraits. What strikes me as a writer is the challenge in Bauck’s eye, her fashionable dress, the thoughtful touch of the eyeglasses to the mouth. What a lot the portrait could suggest for a fictional character!

Passage des Panoramas

July 18, 2018

Tags: Paris landmark

Blog tip: For some great photographs and the sound of a voice echoing in the Passage des Panoramas, where Jeanette finds the Académie Julian, visit the Soundlandescapes' Blog for May 16!

Abbéma panels at Félix

July 16, 2018

Tags: Bernhardt, Croizette, fashion or clothes, women artists

What fun! An article, Paris Dressmakers, in the December 1894 issue of Strand Magazine reports on the fashion salon of the couturier known as M. Félix: “A gallery leading from the first salon to a second has four large panels, painted by Louise Abbéma, representing Sarah Bernhardt in ‘Ruy Blas,’ Croizette in the ‘Caprices of Marianne,’ Ada Rehan in the ‘School for Scandal,’ and a fancy costume of the period of Louis XV.” (more…)


July 12, 2018

Tags: fashion or clothes, lay figures

Marottes were wooden or papier mâché forms used by hatmakers when they were decorating or showing their wares. They are clearly akin to penny wooden dolls and also remind me of artists’ lay figures. According to the OED, the word is possibly related to marionette, although the etymology of both is obscure. (more…)

Elwell Landing

July 9, 2018

Tags: marriage, rooms, women artists

Website tip: Is it one of Jeanette’s Portraits without People or simply a painting of an interior? Either way, it’s a pleasure to be introduced to Mary Dawson Holmes Elwell—an artist who married a man twice her age, had a happy marriage (he supported her art), and after his death married the artist Frederick Elwell. Read all about it here.

Via Lines and Colors.

Millinery workshop

July 6, 2018

Tags: fashion or clothes

I am reading the catalogue for Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade, a 2017 exhibition at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco. The show has now closed, but the museum mounted a great website where you can still explore some of its themes and images—including this illustration by Courboin. (more…)

Theresa Bernstein’s Suffrage Meeting

July 4, 2018

Tags: women artists, suffrage

Website tip: A woman artist depicting the women’s suffrage movement—what could fit my interests better? You, too, may find Theresa Bernstein website from the CUNY Graduate Center and Baruch College a rich source of images and inspiration. Bernstein’s career covered the entire 20th C, and the website has images of her artwork (including sketchbooks) along with a bibliography of her writing.

Happy Fourth of July—and happy voting!

Paul-Charles Chocarne-Moreau

July 1, 2018

Blog post tip: James Gurney has blog post on Paul-Charles Chocarne-Moreau, a painter of street children. It provides a context for Marie Bashkirtseff’s The Meeting. Both artists studied with Tony Robert-Fleury and William Adolphe Bougeaureau.

For a biography of Chocarne-Moreau, click here.