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

Venetian flower pots

May 19, 2017

Tags: Venice, gardens

The geraniums in this watercolor by Francis Hopkinson Smith caught my eye, as images of flowers in pots always do. It seems both obvious and also somehow wonderful that people have been growing flowers in clay pots ever since antiquity. In a place like Venice, (more…)

Breakfast tables

September 11, 2014

Tags: gardens, women artists, Scandinavian artists

Here in New England, mornings are getting too cool to eat breakfast on the porch; but before summer fades entirely, I was pleased to run across this painting at the always interesting Lines and Colors blog. It is an example of blogger Charley Parker’s feature, “Eye Candy for Today,” which demonstrates the value of looking at an art work bit by bit instead of always as an integrated whole. My interest in garden history has led me to peek into backgrounds of portraits and biblical paintings to catch glimpses of gardens in the past. For writers, realistic details spring out, e.g., the single blossom in a wine glass on the table in this picture. (more…)

Van Gogh’s hospital

April 28, 2014

Tags: Edward, Provence, Van Gogh, gardens

While I was working on Where the Light Falls, my husband and I visited this mental hospital in Arles. The courtyard has been restored to look much as it did when van Gogh was a patient. The (more…)

Noli me tangere

April 20, 2014

Tags: gardens

In the Bible, it is Mary Magdalene who first witnesses the Risen Christ (John 20:14–17). She mistakes for him a gardener until he reveals his true identity, whereupon he tells her not to touch him yet (“Noli me tangere” in the Vulgate Latin). (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…)

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…)

Renicks’ garden

October 24, 2013

Tags: Renicks, gardens, garden party

Garden history is one of my interests, and this image of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte shows the 17th C garden designed by the great André Le Nôtre that led to his being hired by Louis XIV to design the gardens at Versailles. It perfectly expresses the Baroque æsthetic that dominated French gardens for the next 150 years. By the last quarter of the 19th C, such formality had given way to the more naturalistic styles. In my novel, however, the Renicks take pleasure in having been able to restore their garden to its 18th C splendor. I visualized their garden as smaller than this but large even so and also shaded on the sides by trees grown old by the 1870’s.

During my research, I visited the Musée Rodin, which gave me an image of the back of the Renicks' house and allowed me to visualize a large garden in the heart of Paris.

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!