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.

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

Happy Birthday, Impressionism!

November 13, 2014

Tags: Impressionism, Monet

Sunrise, 7:35 AM, November 13, 1872. Claude Monet dashes off his impression of the red sun over misty Le Havre harbor. Yes, no, exactly? Exactly, say researchers Donald Olson, a professor of astrophysics at Texas State University and Géraldine Lefebre, a curator at the Musée d'Art Moderne Aldreé Malraux in Le Havre. For more about their calculations, click here. Does it matter? Not a whit. Is it fun? Well, sure.

See also my earlier post, Impression: Sunrise.

Bastille Day

July 14, 2014

Tags: Hassam, Monet, exhibition, Impressionism

As the entry on this painting at the Musée d’Orsay says, Monet painted it at an event connected with the 1878 World’s Fair—in fact, the occasion of the first public singing of La Marseillaise since the fall of the Second Empire and rise of the Third Republic. Nevertheless, it is often associated with Bastille Day (July 14th), so why not show it today? Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

In Where the Light Falls, Jeanette, Effie, and Edward see the painting at the 4th Impressionist Show. It also interests me because it has so clearly influenced Childe Hassam’s views of flag-draped streets in New York, e.g., The Fourth of July, 1916, or indeed, Paris in his July Fourteenth, Rue Daunou of 1910.

Just for the fun of it, click here for the stirring rendition of La Marseillaise in the greatest B-movie of them all, Casablanca (the song begins at minute 1.08).

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…)

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

October 20, 2013

Tags: fashion or clothes, Impressionism

Blog Tip: A review of the current Chicago version of the exhibition Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity is well illustrated and informative. Thank you, Two Nerdy History Girls.

Monet, Sargent, and "Impressionism"

June 2, 2013

Tags: Sargent, Monet, Impressionism

BLOG TIP: Check out yesterday’s informative GurneyJourney blog post on how John Singer Sargent and Claude Monet defined Impressionism and what they had to say about each other’s art.