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!

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

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Picturing a World

Dutch interior, empty room

May 5, 2014

Tags: Hoogstraten, Jeanette, Louvre, painting in the novel, rooms, Hamer

This is the painting I have a melancholy Jeanette copy in the Louvre after Edward has gone south to Dr. Aubanel’s sanatorium. It would obviously appeal to an artist who perceives empty rooms as “portraits without people.”

Samuel van Hoogstraten was (more…)

This not an April Fool …

April 1, 2014

Tags: Louvre, caricature, copyist, illustration, women artists

This is not an April Fool’s joke, but a genuine double-page spread. Anyone care to speculate on the sex of author and illustrator?

Watercolorist

March 27, 2014

Tags: copyist, fans, fashion or clothes, Jeanette, Louvre

Early in my research when I was discovering that there were indeed women art students in Paris in the late 19th C, I came across this copyist. I have loved her and giggled over her ever since. Wouldn’t Jeanette have longed for that dress? But can any painter, even one who prefers watercolors (more…)

Drawing at the Louvre

September 30, 2013

Tags: Emily, Jeanette, Louvre, Parisiénne, fashion or clothes, illustration

At one point during my research, I became enamored of engraver and librarian François Courboin’s colored illustrations for Octave Uzanne’s Fashion in Paris: The Various Phases of Feminine Taste and Æsthetics from 1797 to 1897. I studied the pictures both for the clothes and their various settings in Paris. Here two women are researching fashion history at the Bibliothéque Nationale. When I sent Jeanette to meet Emily in the Louvre after she has been invited to show her portfolio to Carolus-Duran, I wrongly remembered this picture as being set in the Louvre's print room. No matter. (more…)

Trilby

January 28, 2013

Tags: Trilby, copyist, Louvre, illustration

It came as a surprise to me how many professional women copyists there were in France in the 1870's. For background, I read several novels with artists as character. The most important for my purposes was the 1894 bestseller Trilby, written and illustrated by George du Maurier. It is best known now as the origin of the character Svengali, but for art historians its depiction of student life is invaluable. The three men in the background are the Laird, Taffy, and Little Billee, the artists for whom the title character, Trilby, models in the opening chapters. The copyist here is only decoration, but one named Noémie Nioche figures actively in The American by Henry James (1877).

For a contrast to the workaday clothes shown here, check out another copyist painted by a male artist here.

Erasmus

January 24, 2013

Tags: painting in the novel, copyist, Jeanette, Louvre

Before there were photographic reproductions, artists copied in museums as part of their exploration of past masters' work; and the second-rate among them could make a living copying pictures that other people wanted as souvenirs for their walls. In a passage that was cut from the final text of Where the Light Falls, Jeanette watches a hardened old pro making yet another copy of Holbein's Erasmus. She has a brief exchange with him and reflects on how much her father would like to have the portrait in his study. As far as I'm concerned, the encounter took place and so I'm slipping it back into the world of the novel via this blog. Authors, do some scenes that fail to make the final cut remain potent in your memory? And, readers, when deleted material is subsequently published, do you incorporate it into your idea of a book?

Ladies at the Louvre

January 21, 2013

Tags: Degas, Cassatt, Louvre, Paris landmark, Jeanette, Effie

I loved finding this image early on—Jeanette and Cousin Effie! Or, no, what fun: Mary Cassatt and her sister Lydia posing for Edgar Degas, who reworked this basic composition in several media. (Besides this version, see also, for example, an etching and a study.)

On her first visit to the Louvre, Jeanette is humbled by the glories she encounters; but on later visits a part of her would want to strike a pose of confident, nonchalant connoisseurship. Effie would forever bury her nose dutifully in a guidebook.