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

Marie-François Firmin-Girard

July 5, 2017

Tags: Paris landmark, dogs, flower seller, handcart, street views

Blog post alert:> Thanks to a post at Line and Colors for introducing me to Marie-François Firmin-Girard. I love finding pictures that I might have used for Where the Light Falls had I come upon them in time. (more…)

Children in the Luxembourg Garden

July 30, 2016

Tags: Edelfelt, Scandinavian artists, Paris landmark, fashion or clothes

A post on Children in the Summer Park at the blog, It’s About Time, alerted me to a painting I’ve been searching for without being able to remember the artist’s name—Albert Edelfelt. Itwas this painting that first gave me the idea (more…)

Female gaze

May 30, 2016

Tags: Carolus-Duran, Casas, Paris landmark, cafés and restaurants

Blog tip: Sunday post at the always interesting Lines and Colors, sent me to Spanish painter Ramon Casas, who studied with
Carolus-Duran
at about the (more…)

Paris panoroama

January 18, 2016

Tags: Paris landmark

Website tip: Wheeeee! For a 360° panorama of Paris in high resolution, click here.

Paris in Mourning

November 16, 2015

Tags: Paris landmark, Lépine

As we all try to absorb the implications of last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, it seems fair for each of us to dwell with love on the aspects of the city and the people that mean the most to us. Paris has had a bloody, violent history yet who can deny its (more…)

Banlieues

September 29, 2014

Tags: Marville, Paris landmark, transportation

By the time her train reaches Paris, Jeanette is feeling scared, and this moody photograph helped me think about what was outside the window as the day darkened. Baron Haussmann’s remaking of Paris not only changed the physical look of the city, but also distorted (more…)

Learning by blogging

August 21, 2014

Tags: Hassam, Paris landmark, dogs, transportation

To complement Bellows’ Steaming Trains, I was looking for one of Hassam’s American urban landscapes when I came across this image of Paris. Aha! One of the Wallace water fountains I didn’t know about until this summer. Well, well.

My experience is that you don't leave a fictional world behind even after you finish a story. Things keep reminding you of it and adding to your understanding of characters, setting, and motives. And there’s nothing like blogging to make you bring together bits of this and that!

Wallace water fountains

July 10, 2014

Tags: Franco-Prussian War, Paris landmark

Writers of historical fiction are susceptible to what someone called “research rapture,” elation over trivia. It may be just as well that I did not know about Wallace water fountains when I wrote Where the Light Falls or I might have gleefully included one whether it was needed or not.

A recent BBC piece on impoverished Britons in France alerted me to the existence of these public drinking fountains. (more…)

Henri’s Jardin du Luxembourg

April 7, 2014

Tags: Henri, Paris landmark, gardens

After Jeanette completes Edward's portrait, they walk to the Luxembourg Garden. This painting of it by Robert Henri is reproduced in Barbara Weinberg’s book, The Lure of Paris:Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers (1991), my real introduction to the whole topic of an American woman studying art in Paris. Consequently, although the picture was painted twenty years after the action of my novel and in a later style, its vividness has been with me all along. (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…)

Atget

March 13, 2014

Tags: Atget, Paris landmark, photograph, work-in-progress


Time for a photograph at the blog, I thought: I’ll do a post on Eugène Atget. As it happens, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a show up through May 9th, Paris as Muse: Photography, 1840s–1950s, where Atget's Quai d'Anjou can be seen.

I looked at a lot of Atget's photographs (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.

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…)

Parisian drawings

January 5, 2014

Tags: Paris landmark

Blog tip! Today’s post at the invaluable Bibliodyssey blog is a portfolio of Parisian architectural drawings selected from the digitized Chauvet collection at the BnF’s Gallica site. The post provides information and links. To check it out, click here.

Cluny

December 30, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Paris landmark

I spent a semester in France as an undergraduate. A visit to the Cluny that sophomore year fed my interest in the Middle Ages, later my field of specialization in graduate school. When I read that women art students in the 19th C valued the opportunity its enclosed gardens offered them to work outdoors unmolested, I knew I had to send Jeanette there. (more…)

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…)

Arc de Triomphe

December 16, 2013

Tags: Paris landmark, Adeline, Jeanette, transportation

This loosely painted detail of the distant Arc de Triomphe in the background of Hassam’s
painting of the Champs Elysées
is the kind of thing I had in mind when Jeanette sarcastically suggests sketching Adeline Vann in the Tuileries Garden with the arch just (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…)

Hot stove in a studio

September 5, 2013

Tags: Amy, Bazille, Sonja, studio, Paris landmark

I loved this picture when I came across it early in my research—it was so specific and full of workaday details. Here was what the gray walls artists wanted for neutral light looked like, along with a chair for a sitter, a paintbox, a palette. Bazille’s studio is not exactly how I later imagined Sonja and Amy’s—oh, but look at that hot, hot stove! Coal supplied by Count Witkiewicz! And now that I look at the picture again, I see it as one of Jeanette’s empty rooms as a portrait.

For a very similar painting, see Gustave Caillebotte’s Interior of a Studio with Stove. (more…)

American Girls Art Club

August 23, 2013

Tags: Paris landmark

Blog Alert:I'm almost too excited to type, but you MUST go to today's American Girls Art Club post for a book review of Where the Light Falls with a GORGEOUS illustrated tour of Paris to take you to landmarks in the novel. Thank you, Marge!

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…)

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.

Grand Central Station

April 3, 2013

Tags: transportation, World's Fair, Paris landmark, Vassar

A recent post in the fascinating blog Daytonian in Manhattan describes the building of Grand Central Station in New York City, where Jeanette and Cousin Effie arrive from Poughkeepsie in Chapter Two of Where the Light Falls. Isn’t it interesting how both the brick station and the glass-walled Great Exhibition Hall at the Paris World's Fair used domes over the central entrance and at the end of wings? In fact, you can relate them both to the symmetrical architecture of the Tuileries Palace and Vassar College if you want to pursue echoes in the novel!

World's Fair (I): Glass

April 1, 2013

Tags: Effie, Franco-Prussian War, Paris landmark, World's Fair, entertainment, glass

The World's Fair of 1878, or Exposition Universelle, was held to celebrate France's prosperous return to the world stage seven years after the Franco-Prussian War. It was big, it was grand, it was modern. The glass-and-steel domes of the Main Exhibition Hall may look old-fashioned to our eyes, but it is still impressive for its airy joie de vivre. If you click on the image to the left, a link will take you to a French site with photos chronicling its construction. And, no, this isn't an April Fool's Day joke!

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…)

Boulevard Montmartre

February 11, 2013

Tags: Académie Julian, Effie, Jeanette, Paris landmark, street views

In New York City, Jeanette has been told about an art school called the Académie Julian. Now in Paris, in Chapter Eight, as soon as she and Effie have rented an apartment, they set out to find it. The school, which admitted women students (unlike the national École des Beaux-Arts) was located in the Passage des Panaromas, a shopping arcade that ran—and still runs—north from the rue Saint-Marc to the boulevard Montmartre. Jeanette and Effie walk its length and are momentarily baffled when they find themselves here, on the boulevard beside the Theatre des Variétés. I have stood at this very spot; the passage would be to the right if it were in the oil sketch, (more…)

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.

Place du Carrousel

January 17, 2013

Tags: Paris landmark, De Nittis, dogs, handcart, street views

On their first visit to the Louvre, Jeanette and Effie enter the Place du Carrousel and see a wide cobbled plaza, birds, red trousers of Zouaves in the distance, the ruins of the burned-out Tuileries Palace, and the statue of Victory atop the triumphal Arc du Carrousel. It's all in this painting.

And notice where the light falls! Victory becomes an emblem in Jeanette's mind for her artistic (more…)

The Pont des Arts

January 14, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Paris landmark, Béraud, Parisiénne, street views

On her first full day in Paris, Jeanette enters her new life by crossing the Pont des Arts, the pedestrian bridge from the Left Bank to the Louvre. Béraud’s Windy Day illustrates the place; and from the first time I saw it, its tone of urbane self-awareness represented for me Jeanette's move into a bigger world. The self-possessed young woman in the foreground is certainly the very image of the chic Parisiénne that Jeanette would love to become. By its angle of view and the wide horizontal spread of pavement, moreover, the picture emphasizes the physical breadth of public spaces in Paris. (more…)

Entering Paris

January 7, 2013

Tags: transportation, Paris landmark

Jeanette and Cousin Effie enter Paris from the west, passing through this tunnel to reach the Gare Saint-Lazare, painted famously by Claude Monet but also by other artists, including Norbert Goeuneutte. The station was in a new section of Paris, energetic and smart rather than romantic and quaint. Photographs even more than paintings conveyed to me the rawness and newness, and the weird sensation of entering the city below street level.