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

Michael Ancher’s breakers

June 21, 2018

Tags: Charlie Post, Scandinavian artists

I gave my fictional artist Charlie Post an obsession with painting oncoming waves because that really was a motif for more than one 19th C painter—witness this one by Skagen artist Michael Ancher, (more…)

Calm waters

March 17, 2017

Tags: Charlie Post, Dusseldorf, Scandinavian artists

Surfing on the net (not the sea!) landed me yesterday at a sale at Christie’s, where this painting was up for auction. It’s just the sort of thing I had in mind for Charlie Post’s obsessively pursued subject of sea, horizon, and shore. (more…)

Varnishing day

November 11, 2013

Tags: Robida, Jeanette, Charlie Post, Salon, caricature, exhibition

Without explaining the ins and outs of the annual state-sponsored art exhibition known as the “Salon,” I wanted readers to experience how important it felt to most professional artists, students, critics, and journalists. As Robida’s illustration for La Caricature (7 mai 1891) suggests, the last day before the official opening was a mad frenzy as painters varnished canvasses already hung or showed their works to special guests. (more…)

Waves—then and now

September 13, 2013

Tags: Charlie Post

Web tip: For a mesmerizing, interactive image of a 1908 painting of waves click here. If you move your cursor across it, the image slides between the painting and a modern photograph taken from a vantage point to duplicate it. The site has several such images. I chose this one because it reminded me of Charlie Post’s Wave, but scroll down the page and try some others. A time sink, but fun. (With thanks to the Gurney Journey.)

Flight into Egypt

July 8, 2013

Tags: Rembrandt, Renicks, Jeanette, Edward, Charlie Post, painting in the novel, light

The Renicks’ copy of Rembrandt’s Flight allowed me to show Edward and Jeanette reacting together to the same evocative object but with different emotional responses. In this scene, the painting embodies emotional light and shadow, the need for safety and the longing for transcendence. In general, it illustrates artists’ concern for sources of light and where the falls. The hidden moon also echoes Charlie Post’s sickle moon, and the fire adds that touch of red or warm color that plays into several compositions in the book.


May 30, 2013

Tags: Charlie Post

Harrison’s Wave inspired Charlie Post’s paintings of water, plain and simple. My idea for Charlie’s receding sickle moon, however, came more from Tonalist paintings with their atmospheric suggestions of mystery.

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.