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.

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Picturing a World

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…)

Cendre de rose

October 28, 2013

Tags: Stevens, Jeanette, fashion or clothes, fans, garden party

Before it came time to design Jeanette’s costume for Cornelia’s garden party, I had seen Stevens' Summer at the Francine and Sterling Clark Art Institute. I went back. Perfect! On Jeanette’s budget, it had to be modified—among other things, fewer ruffles—but I loved the suggestion of a color for her, a grayish pink, ash rose, rose cinders (Cinderella at the ball?).

For an actual dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum that is somewhat similar, click here and look at the second dress on the second row.

For a large selection of French fashion plates from the 1870’s at the New York Public Library, click here.

For Griselda Pollock's discussion of Stevens' paintings of the four seasons at the Clark, click here.

Hotel breakfast

January 10, 2013

Tags: Morisot, Jeanette, fans, women artists

Literary criticism uses the term "misprision" to refer to an author's creative misreading of another writer's work. Morisot's young woman is presumably in a private house and the meal is specified as luncheon; but for me the flowers in the background call to mind the little garden behind the Hôtel des Marronniers on the rue Jacob, where breakfast was served (more…)

All aboard in a New Year!

January 1, 2013

Tags: Jeanette, transportation, fashion or clothes, fans

Because I love building fictional worlds, early in my research I spent time investigating exactly how Jeanette would get to Paris. To my delight, shipboard scenes on passenger liners were a popular painting genre in the mid 19th C. Tissot here catches the glamour attached to sea travel—not that Jeanette and Effie were wearing such clothes on board ship! Still, the fashion details are reminders of how important hats and fans were in the 19th C, and what sexual signals attire that covers every inch of the female figure can send.

Cousin Effie's screen!

November 29, 2012

Tags: Effie, fans, studio

After I posted yesterday's image of Alfred Stevens' In the Studio, I noticed the Asian screen behind the painter for the first time and did a double take. That's just like the one Cousin Effie buys in Where the Light Falls! Well, not quite—I imagined Effie's as smaller. But it is lovely to have this confirmation that it belongs in the story.

Does anyone know whether Stevens' screen is Chinese or Japanese? Asian prints and objets d'art were were very popular among artists in 1870s and 1880s. Notice, for instance, the Japanese parasol mounted on the wall and the fan tucked behind a picture over the model's left shoulder.

In the Studio

November 28, 2012

Tags: fans, women artists, studio, Jeanette, Amy, Sonja, Emily, Stevens

When I began research on women artists in the nineteenth century, I had no idea how many there were. Every new picture of women in an art class or an artist in her studio was an exciting revelation. Among the many, Alfred Stevens’ In the Studio stood out because it seemed to capture a moment in a story.

Once, just for the fun of it, I thought of the standing artist as Sonja. The visitor might be Jeanette. Maybe Amy was posing. Or was that Emily? In fact, no identifications from Where the Light Falls fit exactly. Nevertheless, every time I look at this image, I feel like I’m peeking into their world.