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.

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

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Miss La La again

December 4, 2016

Tags: Degas, entertainment

When I sent my characters to the Cirque Fernando in Where the Light Falls to see Mlle. La La perform, I had no idea that the real woman painted by Edgar Degas was a mixed-race performer. (more…)

Crime and dance

May 19, 2014

Tags: entertainment, work-in-progress

Sometimes interests converge. A recent post on The Gangs of Paris at the Victorian Paris blog sent me investigating the story-telling, tough-guy, tough-gal Danse Apache or Apache Dance (pronounced ah-PAHSH in both French and English), which originated in France and quickly moved to the American stage in 1908. (more…)

Salome

February 27, 2014

Tags: Henri, entertainment, work-in-progress

Robert Henri, Salome (1909)
As a follow-up to my last post, here’s a quick look ahead at naughty behavior in New York City in 1908, the setting for my current work-in-progress. I came across Robert Henri’s portrait of the dancer Mademoiselle Voclezca in a 1995 exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York. More astonishing to me than the painting were several paragraphs about a craze for “Salome dancers.” (more…)

Puppets in the Park

December 23, 2013

Tags: Angelica, Christmas, Effie, entertainment

It’s December 23rd, the day Cousin Effie takes Angelica to a marionette show in the park, so I’m going to leave Jeanette and Edward in the summertime Luxembourg Garden and detour into Christmas. Well, I admit it's also summer in Ellen Houghton's picture of a puppet show in the leafy Tuileries Garden, (more…)

Croizette and Bernhardt

October 31, 2013

Tags: Bernhardt, Croizette, entertainment, garden party

One of the better readers of my manuscript objected to having the two actresses appear at the garden party (too hokey), but I thought a little razzle-dazzle was called for. Besides, don’t we all get a kick out of a celebrity cameo appearance?

When I began my research, Sophie Croizette was discovery for me. (more…)

Showboat

April 18, 2013

Tags: Cornelia, Edward, entertainment, transportation

When Edward tells Cornelia Renick about taking Jeanette and Effie to the Cirque Fernando, they are reminded of a childhood escapade when they watched horses perform aboard a showboat on the Ohio River. In a slightly longer draft of this passage, I specified that they kept watch over the building of Spaulding and Rogers' spectacular Floating Circus Palace, which seated 3,400 and was launched in Cincinnati in 1851 when they would have been about ten or eleven years old. As far as I'm concerned, the escapade happened. (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.

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!

Beggar's Polka

March 21, 2013

Tags: Franco-Prussian War, Grandcourt, Jeanette, entertainment, caricature

Hippolyte Grandcourt is a wholly imaginary character whose presence enabled me to incorporate anecdotes about Paris beyond the action of the novel. Don't rely on him to tell the exact truth; don't even rely on him for anecdotes that exactly replicate my sources. He was not, for instance, present when Offenbach handed the mendicant his Beggar's Polka.

The music of Jacques Offenbach is specially associated with the Second Empire of Napoleon III—he's the composer of the Galop Infernal (1858) that we all know as the music to the can-can. (more…)