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.

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Picturing a World

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…)

Petit Honoré

January 8, 2015

Tags: cafés and restaurants

It was great fun to invent the Petit Honoré where Robbie Dolson takes Jeanette and Effie instead of to Tortoni’s—so much fun that I made the café a favorite of Effie’s. (Generally speaking, if someone or something is important enough to (more…)

Happy New Year's Day

January 1, 2015

Tags: Jeanette, Manet, Parisiénne, fashion or clothes, cafés and restaurants

On this first day of January, would that we could all be sitting, smartly dressed, in a Parisian garden-café or brasserie!

When I first saw Manet’s painting early in my writing of Where the Light Falls, I did a joyous double-take. Here was (more…)

Hungaria Restaurant, 1908

October 27, 2014

Tags: cafés and restaurants

Having read that Hungarian restaurants were among the first ethnic restaurants in New York to attract customers outside their own community, I’ve sent Mattie and her lover to one early in ANONYMITY. For the fun of it, I tried to find images of one in 1908. Lo and behold, this photograph! It shows (more…)

Back to a future restaurant

August 4, 2014

Tags: Robida, cafés and restaurants, illustration

Oh, what fun! I thought when I saw a Public Domain Review post on Albert Robida’s Leaving the Opera in the Year 2000. I keep an eye out for cafés and restaurants and will cheerfully add this one to my directory of imaginary eating places. The verve and wit of Robida’s style carries well from Jeanette’s 19th C into Mattie’s 20th C—for that matter, as a chic French version of steampunk right into the 21st C. (more…)

Duval restaurant

March 10, 2014

Tags: Effie, Jeanette, Renoir, cafés and restaurants

To make a world real, it seems to me you have to know what people ate and where and when. When the Duval restaurants turned up early in my research I knew I could use them; and Renoir's painting of a Duval waitress became a touchstone image for me. Not only the quietly respectable young woman but the figured wallpaper and curtains suggested a feminine air that would be reassuring to Jeanette and Effie.

Pierre Louis Duval, a butcher, began selling servings of a meat cooked in broth to workers ca. 1855. From this venture grew a chain of restaurants. They were clean, well-run places where women on a budget could eat safely. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Café Cagniard

October 7, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, Effie, Robbie, Carolus-Duran, Sargent, Beckwith, cafés and restaurants

I broke into a grin at the Boston Public Library when I read in an article that Pére Cagniard’s café at 23, rue Bréa was frequented by Carolus-Duran and his students, including Sargent. This painting from Sargent’s second year of studying with Carolus inspired me to invent a picture of the owner’s daughter to hang on (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…)

Pâtisserie

July 18, 2013

Tags: Béraud, cafés and restaurants

My editor teased me one time about how often my characters go to pâtisseries to buy pastry or have a cup of chocolate. Well, wouldn’t you if there were places like this available? When I invented my fictional Petit Honoré, I did not imagine either so high a ceiling or so grand a space, but I love visiting La Pâtisserie Gloppe via Béraud’s painting. Some of Jeanette and Effie’s visits to bakeries, cafés, and tea shops were edited out, but feel free to re-imagine as many as you like—and if you want to send them to the Gloppe, the address was no. 6, Champs Élysées. They’ll love it! Also, if you know of a teashop or bakery that continues to offer this kind of ambiance and gustatory delight, please let us know in the comments.

Café Tortoni

July 15, 2013

Tags: Robbie, Jeanette, Effie, Emily, cafés and restaurants, kiosk, street views

The Café Tortoni was a real place, posh and successful for most of the 19th C. Martial’s etching shows the Morris column or advertising kiosk that Robbie pretends to be perusing when Jeanette, Cousin Effie, and Emily arrive expecting to be treated to its famous ice cream. (more…)

Lay Figure

July 1, 2013

Tags: Degas, cafés and restaurants, model

The carelessly thrown woman at the feet of painter Henri Michel-Levy is a lay figure. These were mannequins, usually made of wood, that artists used as models in place of a live person (who would have to be paid). Jeanette’s friends would never have allowed their Poupée to sprawl so awkwardly, considering her, as they did, a mascot to be treated with affection.

For John Fergus Weir’s wonderful image of an undressed lay figure that shows its construction, click here. And for the first of a wonderfully informative series of blog posts on lay figures by Dinotopia artist James Gurney and links to the rest, click here.

Poupée en Bas

June 27, 2013

Tags: Beals, Poupée, cafés and restaurants, work-in-progress

La Poupée en Bas, where Jeanette and Cousin Effie meet Sonja to discuss her eviction, is completely fictional, confected from what I learned about supper clubs and various informal arrangements made by male artists for taking communal meals. It was easy to imagine that women artists might also join together to avoid having to cook or go out to restaurants. I then had the fun of inventing the arrangement with La Belle Hélène, describing the decor, and visiting the place from time to time with my characters. But, of course, there is no illustration of it. As a substitute (and a plug for a future novel), I’m borrowing from research (more…)

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…)

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.