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

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Picturing a World

Manet, Monet, and the Gare Saint-Lazare

July 28, 2017

Tags: Monet

In contrast to Colin Campbell Cooper’s painting of New York’s Grand Central Station, discussed in my previous post, the ground-level vantage point of Monet’s painting helped me imagine the Saint-Lazare train station as Jeanette and Effie experienced it upon their arrival in Paris.

It is one of many images discussed in (more…)

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).

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…)

Turkeys

November 28, 2013

Tags: Monet, Pissarro

I don’t know whether Pissarro’s Turkeys hung at the 4th Impressionist Exhibition (and don’t have The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886 at hand to check), but it could have. For an 1876 painting of turkeys by Monet, click here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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…)

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.

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.

Out a train window

January 4, 2013

Tags: transportation, Monet

I came across Springtime while tracing the route between Dieppe and Paris. It showed me what Jeanette might see from her train window. The speed of train travel made the countryside seem to unroll continuously outside the frame of a window. Moreover, railway beds serve only to carry trains, and scrub brush along their banks can screen the view for miles. Monet’s sketchy, broken brush strokes allowed me to catch a glimpse of a half-seen house with an orange roof and imagine Jeanette’s seeing it for an instant. In words, all that remains of that moment is the phrase “red-twigged coppices on riverbanks” on p. 66, but, believe me, she saw the house!