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.

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An American woman art student meets a Civil War veteran in Belle Époque Paris.

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Carolus-Duran, fencer

June 1, 2017

Tags: Carolus-Duran, fencing, illustration

A recent update from a correspondent who is doing research on Carolus-Duran led me to look over my collection of images by or about the artist. To my surprise, I saw that I have never posted this drawing of Carolus as a fencer. His swordsmanship made him dashing to his students—and to me!

(more…)

Norman Garstin

November 28, 2016

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Pont Aven, art colony

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For the most part, I try to focus on lesser known women artists in this blog; but today my attention was caught by a man new to me, Norman Garstin. He studied with Carolus-Duran in Paris, painted in Brittany at about the same time (more…)

Saint-Aygulf

July 6, 2016

Tags: Carolus-Duran

When characters become a part of your life, associations continue to attract your attention even after a book is finished. I had an e-mail today from a friend who is spending the summer in Bandol, France. The Riviera now makes me think of Carolus-Duran and how much he loved the Mediterranean. He had a villa at Saint-Aygulf and donated two paintings to the local chapel. For more (in French), click here.

Female gaze

May 30, 2016

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Casas, Paris landmark, cafés and restaurants

Blog tip: Sunday post at the always interesting Lines and Colors, sent me to Spanish painter Ramon Casas, who studied with
Carolus-Duran
at about the (more…)

Carolus-Duran (4)

April 19, 2016

Tags: Carolus-Duran, studio

Readers of this blog know that I'm always on the lookout for pictures that illustrate Where the Light Falls. Jeanette specially notices the size of Carolus-Duran's palette when she first see him painting Cornelia Renick's portrait—et voilà!

Elizabeth Butler

November 20, 2015

Tags: Elizabeth Butler, Carolus-Duran, Sargent, women artists

An important new show, Artist & Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past, will be opening at the Tate Gallery in London on November 25, 2015. It features this painting by Elizabeth Butler among (more…)

Pauline Carolus-Duran

December 18, 2014

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Sarah Bernhardt, Sophie Croizette, fashion or clothes, women artists

Pauline Marie Charlotte Croizette was an artist and the sister of actress Sophie Croizette. In 1868, Pauline met Carolus-Duran in the Louvre, where she was copying old masters, and married him that year. I love (more…)

Ellen Day Hale

December 1, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, Carolus-Duran, Hale, women artists

Ellen Day Hale's 1910 picture of a reclining woman with a guitar (taken here from a post at It’s About Time) can help me with the atmosphere of ANONYMITY in a way that photographs cannot. There’s something fresh and vivid (more…)

Grez-sur-Loing

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…)

Women, art, and marriage

June 23, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, Bracquemond, Carolus-Duran, Cassatt, Gonzalés, Morisot, 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…)

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…)

Crucifixion

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.

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.

Malade

January 30, 2014

Tags: Amy, Carolus-Duran, Sonja, Monet, malade, model

When Amy returns from Pont Aven to find that Sonja has brought La Grecque and Angelica into their studio, she makes the best of what she considers a bad situation by insisting that the model earn her keep by posing. The idea of Amy’s unflinching desire to take advantage of the chance to study a sick woman’s appearance was suggested to me by several 19th C paintings of sick beds or death beds. The most haunting case, which Carolus-Duran recounts to Jeanette later in the novel, was Monet’s oil sketch of his wife, Camille, in the hour after her death. (more…)

Corpse of Henri Régnault

January 16, 2014

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Edward, Franco-Prussian War, Manet, Meissonier, Regnault

One more item that lay behind Edward and Carolus-Duran’s conversation about their two wars. Emile Zola said that Carolus-Duran made Edouard Manet (more…)

Résistance

January 13, 2014

Tags: Bracquemond, Carolus-Duran, Franco-Prussian War

Given the weather in most of the country this January, Carolus-Duran’s plunge into snowy memories during his summertime walk with Edward in the Tuileries Garden makes for a timely post. The painter really did assist his friend, Alexandre Falguière, build a snow sculpture at Bastion 84 on the southern wall of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, and so I could have him recount the incident to Edward when they discussed their respective wars.

For Bracquemond’s etching of Bastion 84, click here.

For an amusing film clip of a snowball fight in 1896, click here.

Palace ruins

January 9, 2014

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Edward, Franco-Prussian War, Meissonier, Paris landmark, Tuileries

The American Civil War (1861-1865) has deeply affected the psyches of Cousin Effie and Edward; and as soon as I learned in my background reading that Carolus-Duran fought in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), I knew a shared experience of war could be an overt point of contact between him and Edward. (more…)

Study for a portrait

November 21, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Cornelia, fashion or clothes

I spent time looking at society portraits by Carolus-Duran in order to visualize my invented portrait of Cornelia Renick as well as to enliven the photograph of his portrait of Countess V—. Duran’s enjoyment of the rich fabric he preferred for his subjects is visible in this study for a portrait of (more…)

Carolus-Duran (3)

November 18, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Sargent, Salon, Jeanette Smith, exhibition

Sargent’s portrait of his teacher—mon cher maître, as he has written across the top of the canvas—hangs at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Seeing it there and recognizing the name as that of the real Jeanette Smith’s teacher was what set me off investigating the whole topic of American women art students in Paris. As I got into planning the novel, think what a gift it was to learn that this portrait won an Honorable Mention for Sargent at the 1879 Salon, the very year that Carolus-Duran won the top prize for his portrait of Countess V— discussed in the previous post. I knew at once they would both have to go into the novel.

Countess de V—

November 14, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Salon, exhibition, painting in the novel, studio

The quality of this photograph of Carolus-Duran’s Portrait de Mme. la Comtesse de V[andal] may seem poor, but I was thrilled to find it among montages of other works bought by the French government at the 1879 Salon. As those of you who do historical or genealogical research know, a digital image of primary materials is almost as exciting as physical objects that can be picked up. (If you have a story of such a find, tell us in a comment below!)

Admittedly, a digital reproduction of a photograph of a painting is tertiary evidence at best, but knowing that the French government took such pains in documenting its purchases demonstrated art’s importance in official policy. Governmental encouragement contributed to the sense of art students like Jeanette that Paris was the best possible place for them to be. (more…)

Letter from a party

November 4, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, fashion or clothes, garden party, sketches

Mention of Jeanette’s illustrated letters home had already been made in the narrative when my editor suggested using them to condense passages. The device proved helpful not only for summarizing events, but also for varying narrative rhythm and revealing the character’s attempts to shape her story for her family. In my imagination, moreover, I could make Jeanette as good a watercolorist as Albert Edelfelts! His letter (in Swedish) depicts “Mme Cotterau with Carolus Duran and Paul Deroulède.” It might as well be from Cornelia’s party after the portrait is unveiled, don’t you think?

For another page of the letter with a fashion doodle, click here.

For more information (in Swedish) at the vast Europeana website, click here

For an illustration of Paul Derouléde’s duel with Georges Clemenceau, click here. (Oh, the serendipity of the web!)

Velázquez , Velázquez , Velázquez

October 18, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Velázquez

Museum tip: Carolus-Duran constantly invoked the work of Velázquez. For those of you traveling to Spain this winter, a major exhibition at the Prado in Madrid, Velázquez and the Family of Philip IV, runs October 8, 2013–February 9, 2014. For the catalogue of a past show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that focused on the 19th C French response to Velázquez, click here.

Equestriénne

October 17, 2013

Tags: Cornelia, Edward, Carolus-Duran, Sophie Croizette, fashion or clothes, horses, painting in the novel

When I first came across this painting, I thought of Cornelia Renick, who had been a rider. Here was her outfit. Then I learned that the woman in the painting was Carolus-Duran’s sister-in-law, the actress Sophie Croizette, a star of the Comédie Française. Yippee! Cornelia presses Edward to attend her garden party by dangling Croizette’s attendance as bait. Edward remembers having seen an engraving of this very painting. Since I made up Edward’s magazine, the engraving is fictional—though if anyone knows of a real one, please tell us about it in a comment!

Lucy Lee Robbins

October 14, 2013

Tags: Lucille Dobbs, Lucy Lee Robbins, Carolus-Duran, Cassatt, women artists

The character Lucille Dobbs is based only very loosely on this portrait of Lucy Lee Robbins, an American who studied with Carolus-Duran in the 1880’s. Although Robbins was considered for the prize of painting a mural in the Women’s Building at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, she was said by Mrs. Palmer Potter to be “not above reproach” (more…)

Café Cagniard

October 7, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Effie, Robbie, Carolus-Duran, Sargent, Beckwith, cafés and restaurants

I broke into a grin at the Boston Public Library when I read in an article that Pére Cagniard’s café at 23, rue Bréa was frequented by Carolus-Duran and his students, including Sargent. This painting from Sargent’s second year of studying with Carolus inspired me to invent a picture of the owner’s daughter to hang on (more…)

Carolus-Duran (2)

October 3, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Effie, Jeanette, Sargent, studio

Although I did not try to dramatize a scene in which either Carolus-Duran or John Singer Sargent played a keyboard instrument, it was tempting, for both were superb musicians. Carolus's organ was notable among the many props and objets d'art in his studio. Sometimes he played it to distract restless children who sat (more…)

Sargent's talent

September 26, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Beckwith, Sargent, sketches

Sargent was eighteen when he made this sketch of the fellow art student with whom he shared a studio, James Carroll Beckwith. It was drawn in 1874, the year Sargent began studying with Carolus-Duran. Seeing it gave me an idea of just how confident and skillful Sargent was when he showed the portfolio that won him admiration from the master and the other students in the atelier.

For a relatively early self-portrait by Sargent, click here. For Beckwith’s 1875 sketch of Sargent, click here.

Carolus-Duran (1)

September 23, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Sargent

Because the real Jeanette Smith studied with Carolus-Duran, I knew from the beginning he would be a character in the novel—but not what a gift he would prove to be. In life, he was flamboyant. Besides being showy painter who invoked Velásquez each time he commenced a portrait, he was an accomplished (more…)

Charlie Post

May 27, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Charlie Post, Sargent, studio

I’m not sure which came first, seeing Hovenden’s Self-Portrait or imagining Charlie Post. Like Charlie, Hovenden here seems to me pugnacious, introspective, dissatisfied, brooding, wistful, though his self-confidence is of a different stripe from Charlie’s obsessive belief in his work.

This self-portrait also points to a motif that could have been part of the novel but wasn’t, namely how musically accomplished many of the artists of this period were (including Carolus-Duran and John Singer Sargent). Notice how the scroll above the Hovenden’s violin peg box just touches the edge of the picture on his easel, symbolically joining the two arts. Similarly, in Marie Bashkirtseff’s self-portrait of 1880, the harp behind the painter just touches her palette.

Cornelia's Party Dress

March 18, 2013

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Cornelia, Jeanette, fashion or clothes

Carolus-Duran was a fashionable portraitist specially noted for his ability to paint fabrics and lace. In the novel, he eventually paints a portrait of my society hostess, Cornelia Renick, and takes Jeanette on as a pupil. Before I reached that part of the story, though, this Portrait supplied me with a dress for Cornelia to wear when Jeanette first meets her at a dinner party given by the Renicks to welcome the Murers to Paris.

Edward

December 17, 2012

Tags: Edward, Eakins, Carolus-Duran

Can you imagine how astonishing it was to come across this profound, brooding portrait? Here was Edward! Other images told me a lot about what places looked like, how people comported themselves, what they wore. This one enabled me to probe deeper into how my own character felt—what he knew, what he regretted, what he found himself unable to resolve, understand, or forget.
In the latter part of the novel, Jeanette’s teacher, Carolus-Duran, remarks that Edward is a type that interests him. When I wrote that, I had in mind this painting by him, which some people believe to be a self-portrait.