Katherine Keenum


A blog about the paintings, photographs, and prints that help me visualize my fiction—both Where the Light Falls and works-in-progress. My main current project is a novel tentatively entitled ANONYMITY. Its heroine works in publishing, belongs to a clandestine suffragist group, and has a married lover. Read on!

Click on images to see enlargements. In the text, click on words in color to activate links.

Selected Works

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

Tags

Quick Links

Find Authors

Picturing a World

Van Gogh’s hospital

April 28, 2014

Tags: Edward, Provence, Van Gogh, gardens

While I was working on Where the Light Falls, my husband and I visited this mental hospital in Arles. The courtyard has been restored to look much as it did when van Gogh was a patient. The (more…)

Sea at L’Estaque

April 17, 2014

Tags: Cézanne, Edward, Provence

Edward is discouraged by his first view outside the L’Estaque train station, but then Winkie turns him around to look out over the bay of Marseille. For another version of this painting, click here. For another view from higher up, click here. For others, click here, here, here, and here. (more…)

View from a train station

April 14, 2014

Tags: Cézanne, Edward, Provence, transportation

Originally, I had intended to give the Renicks’ a house in Aix-en-Provence, where I spent a semester my sophomore year in college, and place Dr. Aubanel’s sanatorium near its thermal springs. Jeanette and Effie were to stay for a longish visit and encounter Edward swimming in the river Arc, where Paul Cézanne and Êmile Zola swam as boys. (more…)

Drums at the Tuileries Garden

March 20, 2014

Tags: Edward, Tissot, Tuileries, Paris landmark

"The naked upper branches reached toward a primordial wildness having little to do with parks or men.… The trees at Shiloh had been like that.… In the growing dusk, golden lights pricked out the Rue de Rivoli to his left.… At the rat-a-tat-tat of a drum being beaten to signal the closing hour, he felt a momentary urge to flout the martial-sounding order."

I was looking for a different painting by James Tissot last week (more…)

Three figures

March 8, 2014

Tags: Edward, Effie, Jeanette, Sargent

Blog tip: I’m exploring a blog new to me, Poul Webb’s Art & Artists. Its posts on individual artists are illustrated by many images. This one comes from a post on early John Singer Sargent and demonstrates Sargent’s ease and his unconventional cropping. Jeanette notices both when she sees his sketch of Mrs. Renick. It also illustrates the awareness of flesh that she must take for granted in her class for the nude despite the way it upsets Effie and disquiets Edward.

Women of the night

February 24, 2014

Tags: Degas, Edward, cafés and restaurants

Degas’ pastel of two women sitting at a café table provided the image of a prostitute biting her thumb as a sign of availability. I didn’t think that Edward would be attracted to anyone in this picture, however, and so I imagined a younger, sadder example of a girl who had to (more…)

Pont Neuf

February 22, 2014

Tags: Béraud, Edward, Jeanette, Parisiénne, Paris landmark, dogs

Jeepers! I've just noticed that Thursday's post was not published. Better late than never, take a walk on the Pont Neuf!

When Jeanette returns from Pont Aven at the end of August 1879, she and Edward walk along Left Bank of the Seine on a Sunday afternoon. The scene is set farther down river than the Pont Neuf, but Béraud’s painting captures the casual, strolling ease that I wanted readers to feel.

Notice the Morris column advertising kiosk, the grille around the trees, the black-clad Parisiénne, and the little dog—recurring motifs for imagining Paris in this period.

Tree house restaurant

February 13, 2014

Tags: cafés and restaurants, photograph, Edward, Effie, Jeanette

The village of Plessis just outside Paris was the site of a restaurant built in 1848 as a tree house in honor of Swiss Family Robinson. Its popularity led to the town’s adopting the name Plessis-Robinson Meals in baskets—typically roast chicken, bread, and wine—were pulled up on ropes to customers. (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…)

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…)

British Library images

December 29, 2013

Tags: Edward, Rome

Blog Tip! From a post at The History Blog, I’ve just learned about a million 17th, 18th, and 19th C images released by the British Library to its Flickr account. The view of the Appian Way shown here reminds me of the countryside around Rome that Edward and Carl would have seen. If you have ideas about how to use the new release or find an image that strikes your fancy in any way, please share your thoughts and discoveries!

Romance in the Luxembourg Garden

December 26, 2013

Tags: Edward, Jeanette, Paris landmark, Sargent, cafés and restaurants, fashion or clothes, gardens, light

From the time I started writing, Sargent’s painting of a couple strolling in the Luxembourg Garden was a key image for me. Edward and Jeanette. The fountain. The fashion silhouette of the woman’s dress (no bustle). Touches of red. Light. (more…)

Fuchs’ iris

December 19, 2013

Tags: Edward, Degas, painting in the novel

Gardening history is one of my hobbies, and I enjoyed giving Edward a pleasure I would dearly love to have had, namely, coming across a single illustration from Leonhart Fuchs’ illustrated herbal of 1542 at a stall by the river Seine.

Edward feels confident in buying it partly because of what he has learned from a (more…)

Blue dress at the café

December 9, 2013

Tags: Edward, Forain, Jeanette, Impressionism, Parisiénne, fashion or clothes

While I was writing, the concept of "the male gaze” seemed more pertinent to feminist art history than to my novel. What made me chortle gleefully when I first saw At the Café by Forain was not the trio of repellent oglers, but that blue dress on the Parisiénne. Wouldn’t Jeanette love to see herself in it! Wouldn’t she love the hat! Let’s face it, she might even have enjoyed attracting the notice of strangers (she does want to be a star). But surely not these strangers: Edward was right to be dubious about the milieu and the people depicted. (more…)

Cassatt's blue chair

December 5, 2013

Tags: Cassatt, Edward, Impressionism, Jeanette, exhibition, painting in the novel, women artists

I had Jeanette and Edward react to Mary Cassatt’s Portrait of a Little Girl at the 4th Impressionist Exhibition for several reasons. First and obviously, it fell in with a focus on women painters. Second, the tilting of the picture plane, influenced by Japanese woodcuts, was an important upending of pictorial convention at the time, and I wanted to show how the older Edward could in some ways be more open to the avant-garde than a typical art student like Jeanette who was invested in the prevailing conventions at the very time they were about to fall. (more…)

Man with a boat

December 2, 2013

Tags: Caillebotte, Degas, Edward, Effie, Impressionism, Jeanette, exhibition, painting in the novel

Whether Pissarro's Turkeys hung in the 4th Impressionist show (1879) or not, Caillbotte's Man Docking His Skiff certainly did. Because I had the good luck to see it in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and could examine the actual weave of the canvas and brushstrokes it went onto a short list of paintings for my characters to see, too. What fires the imagination is what matters the most in writing fiction. (more…)

Impression: Sunrise

November 25, 2013

Tags: Impressionism, Monet, Edward, Jeanette

Monet’s Impression: Sunrise is the iconic one, the quintessential example of rapid brushwork used to capture a moment painted out of doors. I knew from The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886 (2 vols.; 1996) that it hung at the 4th Impressionist exhibition (April 10–May 11, 1879), but I chose not to mention it specifically during my characters’ visits to the show because other paintings served my thematic and narrative purposes more pointedly. For this blog, however, what better to pair with the study in the previous post? (more…)

Bièvre

November 7, 2013

Tags: Edward, Effie, Paris landmark, McCall Mission

In the 1870’s, the small river Bièvre, which is now paved over within Paris, carried the waste of tanneries, leather factories, paper mills, and other noisome industries. Edward crosses it when he goes to help Effie at a McCall Mission clinic.

The McCall Mission was a Protestant missionary group. When I first ran across a reference to it in a published diary of sculptor Lorado Taft from his days as a student in Paris, I almost whooped with glee in the library. Now, I knew what Cousin Effie did with her spare hours!

For other views of the scummy river, click here and here. (more…)

Edward's apartment

October 21, 2013

Tags: Caillebotte, Edward, street views

When he returns to Paris from Rome, Edward sublets an apartment on the Right Bank in a new, comfortable district of straight boulevards, harmonious architecture, and no haunting history. Some critics claim that painters of urban modernity in the last quarter of the 19th C depicted alienation and emptiness. They would call your attention to how far Caillebotte’s solitary viewer is removed from the street. But to me, standing as he is at ease above a boulevard lined with trees and handsome buildings, the man suggests Edward: alone perhaps, yet content to contemplate the gifts of civilization and peace in contrast to the horrors of war.

For a street-level view by Caillebotte of the same sort of neighborhood (and solitary man), 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!

Dusty red Rome

September 19, 2013

Tags: Edward, Carl, Rome, Eckersberg, Scandinavian artists

In the 2nd C A.D., more than 1.5 million people lived in Rome. In the mid 19th C, the population was a tenth that size. Visitors were struck by the plethora of ruins within and surrounding the city. Instead of the white marble they expect, Edward and Carl find red brick and dust.

Yet Rome was also a cultural center, where not only was the art of the past on display, but artists still trained, including Scandinavians like Eckersberg and (perhaps of more interest to readers of this blog) women sculptors like Harriet Hosmer. (more…)

Effie's "Lady's Guide"

August 19, 2013

Tags: Nieriker, Effie, Jeanette, Edward, cafés and restaurants, women artists

An early Eureka! moment on this project came when I saw a reference to May Alcott Nieriker’s Studying Art Abroad and How To Do It Cheaply. Wow! Louisa May Alcott’s sister wrote a book for women who wanted to study art in Paris in 1879? (more…)

Research

July 25, 2013

Tags: Edward, Eakins, Rembrandt, Sorollo

The Spanish painter Sorolla captures the intensity of a 19th C scientific researcher and his colleagues in a laboratory. Outside science fiction, the topic of scientific research is not much explored in art or literature (some of my own chapter was edited out). In painting, I can think of only a few medical examples, (more…)

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.

Edward's Les Vosges

June 24, 2013

Tags: Edward, cafés and restaurants

When I was inventing Les Vosges, a crowded, unpretentious neighborhood eating place near Les Halles, Manet’s crowded Café hovered vaguely in the back of my mind (more for its atmosphere than the exact look of the place). The beer mugs certainly fit with an Alsatian restaurant. The customers still in their outer wraps and the fogged window suggest an inelegant but popular place. The woman looks pleased, and I’d like to think it’s because the food and the beer are good. (more…)

Les Halles

June 20, 2013

Tags: Edward, Paris landmark, dogs, shopping

After his fencing less, Edward finds himself in the vicinity of Les Halles, the great covered food market of central Paris. Outside its steel-and-glass structure, street vendors gathered in the open air as Gilbert depicts them here and as they still gather in the tree-shaded squares of smaller towns in France on market days.

NB: an inquisitive dog on the loose in the lower right-hand corner and two more cheerfully settled behind a stand.

Tuileries Garden

June 13, 2013

Tags: Edward, Paris landmark, Tuileries, Cox, gardens

On a fall visit to Paris, Edward walks through the Tuileries Garden as evening descends. Imagine him walking the wide path to the left in Pissarro’s painting, which also captures the bare trees that for a moment carry Edward's mind back to Shiloh. The detail that ducks left rippling wakes in the big round pool seen on the center left margin of the painting comes in a letter from Kenyon Cox, an Ohio art student who was in Paris in the late 1870’s. The woman buying roasted chestnuts for her children at the entrance to the garden was inspired by a print or painting that I saw on line. If anybody happens to know of one, please send me the link!

Kiosk

June 10, 2013

Tags: Amy, Jeanette, Edward, Béraud, Boulevard des Capucines, Rue Scribe, Paris landmark, Haussmann, fashion or clothes, dogs, kiosk, street views

At the end of their stay in Pont Aven, Amy proclaims herself ready again for the rough and tumble of Paris; and once back in the city, Jeanette discovers that she no longer feels like a new girl. I had a framed print of Béraud’s Kiosk beside my chair as I wrote Where the Light Falls : it set the mood perfectly.

The urbane gentleman on the right is dressed as Edward dresses when he goes out for his walks. What I noticed first, though, were the two women prettily lifting their skirts to negotiate the streets—Baron Haussmann’s clean, clean streets and wide pavements, where a lady could walk in city shoes. Jeanette would have visited this very intersection of the Rue Scribe and Boulevard des Capucines on her way from her bank to the Académie Julian. (more…)

Swiss Interlude

June 6, 2013

Tags: Edward, Monet, Theodore, light

Geographical accuracy is one thing, inspiration another. Although Sainte-Addresse is on the coast of Normandy, not in Switzerland, in imagination I transferred the atmosphere of Monet’s seaside garden to a lakeside hotel terrace for Edward and Theodore’s conversation about Kiel and the Louvre. All the while that I pictured lawns sloping down to Lake Constance and mountains across the lake, this painting of full sun on bright nasturtiums, geraniums, and gladiolus, of flags snapping in the breeze, and an expanse water with boats also shaped the scene for me. Instead of viewing it from a high above, however, I squatted just behind and between the brothers.

At the Florist

April 29, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Edward, flower seller, shopping, social customs, street views

Before I saw Béraud’s Promenade, featured in the last post, I had seen Hassam’s Florist, which illustrates the custom of being accompanied by a uniformed maid when out and about in Paris (very handy for having someone to carry purchases as well as to announce respectability). Countess Marie Bashkirtseff and other privileged students at the Académie Julian were escorted to class by a maid. For Jeanette and other foreign students, however, such close chaperonage was unnecessary. The streets of Paris were safe and American girls were notable to Europeans for their independence. (more…)

Showboat

April 18, 2013

Tags: Cornelia, Edward, entertainment, transportation

When Edward tells Cornelia Renick about taking Jeanette and Effie to the Cirque Fernando, they are reminded of a childhood escapade when they watched horses perform aboard a showboat on the Ohio River. In a slightly longer draft of this passage, I specified that they kept watch over the building of Spaulding and Rogers' spectacular Floating Circus Palace, which seated 3,400 and was launched in Cincinnati in 1851 when they would have been about ten or eleven years old. As far as I'm concerned, the escapade happened. (more…)

Cirque Fernando

April 15, 2013

Tags: Degas, Edward, Effie, Jeanette, entertainment, painting in the novel, Paris landmark

After their successful outing to the World's Fair, Edward takes Jeanette and Effie to the Cirque Fernando (later the Cirque Medrano), which featured horseback riders, clowns, and acrobats in a wooden hippodrome on Montmartre, built like a giant circus tent. Degas' painting of Mlle La La, hanging from a trapeze by her teeth, led me to have her perform that night. Later in the novel, my characters see the painting itself at the 4th Impressionist show. For Toulouse-Lautrec's depiction of the ringmaster and a rider, click here.

For a spring 2013 exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library centered on this picture, click here.

World's Fair (IV): Merlin

April 11, 2013

Tags: Burne-Jones, Edward, Jeanette, exhibition, painting in the novel

Burne-Jones's Merlin was, in fact, shown at the Paris World's Fair of 1878. It played perfectly into my wish to touch obliquely on the topic of an older man's infatuation with a younger woman while dramatizing only the barest beginnings of Edward and Jeanette's romance.

To my mind, Burne-Jones is a strange artist, often gorgeous and repellent simultaneously. Readers, how would you answer Jeanette's question in the novel: Is this painting wonderful or ghastly?

World's Fair (III): Panoramas

April 8, 2013

Tags: World's Fair, Edward

This map is very similar to the one in my great-grandfather's guidebook. At the time, artists also produced ærial panoramic views of the fairgrounds, which included the vast Great Exhibition Hall on the Left Bank of the Seine and the Palace of the Trocadero on the Right Bank. For one of the best, click here and be sure to click on the panorama to reach the highest resolution.

The page includes other images of the fair, including a photograph of the rhinoceros that pleased Edward so much and that Jeanette later used for a Peregrine Partout cartoon.

World's Fair (II): Prince of Wales

April 4, 2013

Tags: World's Fair, Edward, Effie, Jeanette

The use of plate glass for such things as ceilings and display windows was an innovation of the 19th Century. The way that glass is both transparent and a barrier between inside and out was, furthermore, something that people noticed. Outside, the Great Exhibition Hall reflected the sky in ever-changing movements of color and light. Inside, on bright days, the brilliance of the natural sunlight it transmitted had to be controlled by movable screens. (more…)

Chanteuse

March 28, 2013

Tags: Carl, Edward, Paris landmark, cafés and restaurants

The outdoor Ambassadeurs, where Edward joins the other Murers, was famous for more than its lights among the trees. Singers, comedians, and acrobats performed. The female singers who were its most important stars were handsomely costumed, their repertoire often more popular than refined. You can see the crowd in the general admission seats on the left. In the novel, the Murers sit at one of the tables available at a higher charge. Carl dismisses the pretty girls sitting on the stage as unable to hold a girl at the Renicks' party, but you can see them for yourself here and here.

Ambassadeurs in the Champs-Élysées

March 25, 2013

Tags: Champs-Élysées, Edward, Franco-Prussian War, Paris landmark, Renoir

After the Renicks' dinner party, Edward escorts Jeanette and Effie home then joins the rest of his family at a café-chansant, Les Ambassadeurs. In Renoir's Champs-Élysées, it is the building on the right. It was surrounded by its own gardens where gaslights on single posts and on tiers among the trees were part of the magical atmosphere. Acts were performed on an elaborate outdoor stage with the additional trees of the park deepening the leafy background. (more…)

Inside the Renicks' House

March 14, 2013

Tags: Edward, Renicks, Paris landmark, Gay, rooms

The delicious Museé Jacquemart-André helped me invent the interior of the Renicks' house even if my fictional house is supposed to be older. Artist Nélie Jacquemart and her banker husband, Edouard André, built the mansion to display their art collection, which included many 18th C paintings, tapestries, and objects. To walk through it was to be in the house of connoisseurs with tastes similar to Marius Renick's. Gay's Grand Salon suggests why, after entering the Renicks' house, Edward finds that from now on he must expand his imagination for aristocratic scenes when he reads Balzac. (more…)

Ostrich at the Zoo

March 11, 2013

Tags: Edward, Paris landmark, illustration

When Edward takes his nephew Eddie to the Parisian zoo, the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, they see an ostrich pulling a cart. Although I had read about the ostrich, I had never seen a picture of it until I ran across Abroad. Illustrated by Thomas Crane (1808–1859), father of the far more famous illustrator Walter Crane (1845–1915), it follows an English family across the Channel and through France. Abroad conveys how a visitor in a foreign country finds that everything looks new and different. (more…)

Veteran

March 7, 2013

Tags: Edward, Manet, street views, war veterans

In Manet's potent Rue Mosnier, the flags are hung out to celebrate France's repayment of war reparations to Germany. The one-legged man who hobbles down the empty street has paid a different price for the Franco-Prussian War. The painting moved me, and I translated it obliquely into the scene where Edward shares a glass of brandy with a veteran. Later, he finds it impossible to put into words why the chance meeting mattered to him, but it did. Likewise, I find it impossible to put into words why the scene matters to me, but it does. I lived in fear that a reader or editor would call for it to be cut. Thank goodness, it went uncontested.

Mauveine

December 27, 2012

Tags: Edward, pigment, pharmaceutical, fashion or clothes

Who knew that a purple pigment led to the development of aspirin? Simon Garfield’s fascinating book, Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World, tells the story of William Henry Perkin’s discovery of the first synthetic carbon-based dye. The ability to mass produce paints, textile dyes, and drugs with stable chemical properties revolutionized industries, including fashion.

As I investigated the 1870s, I was struck again and again by how much in the modern world stems from the mid 19thC—artificial lighting, department stores, photography, railroads. And thematically, nothing could have suited my purposes better than the intersection of chemistry, color, and pharmaceuticals. Dyes and pharmaceuticals give Theodore an argument for persuading Edward to go to Europe; the chemistry involved quickens Edward's mind; and color gives him a connection to Jeanette's world.

O Tannenbaum

December 24, 2012

Tags: Edward, Christmas

On Christmas Eve in Cincinnati, the German Murers would have decorated a table-top tree like the one in this illustration from an 1866 collection, Christmas Poems and Pictures. In 1866, the year after the American Civil War ended, Edward was in no shape to enjoy family festivities; but by the time he spends the holiday in Freiburg-im-Breisgau in the winter of 1878, his German cousins’ celebrations bring childhood memories back to life for him.

May your holidays be filled with joy, good books under the tree, and the makings of happy memories for years to come!

Steep hill in Cincinnati

December 20, 2012

Tags: Edward, Cincinnati, photograph, street views

I’ve been to Poughkeepsie, I’ve been to New York, I’ve been Paris—but never to Cincinnati. Old maps, photos, and drawings in 19th C guide books helped me visualize Edward’s city up to a point. What made me feel the place in my muscles were some drawings of hillsides and public stairs in a 1968 book called Cincinnati Scenes by Caroline Williams. This was crucial for imagining Edward’s climb to Theodore’s house on Mount Auburn after the mugger’s attack. A photograph of the steps from Dorchester Street to Sycamore Hill gives you an idea of how steep those hills really are. (And don't you love how the man at the bottom of the stairs echoes the man on the bridge on the cover?)

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.