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.

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Selected Works

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

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Picturing a World

Life drawing, 1809

May 4, 2016

Tags: schools, studio, light

Website tip: Today's post of images from Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Charles Pugin's Microcosm of London at the always interesting blog, Spitalsfield Life, is a dandy for historical fiction novelists and fans of Georgian England. And I love the way this plate shows early 19th C lighting for a life class.

Light and composition

November 13, 2015

Tags: Menzel, light

We are so used to evenly lit rooms at night that it requires a real act of imagination to visualize stories from the 19th C and earlier as their authors and first readers did. And what about writers of historical or fantasy? Is it pedantic to try to imagine authentic lighting or (pardon the pun) illuminating? How does one convey to a reader what the characters should take for granted? (more…)

Light and rooms

September 15, 2014

Tags: light, rooms

A recent e-mail exchange with a friend about the rise of the word living-room in America in the 19th C set me thinking about how important it is in historical fiction to get ordinary terms right. Front parlor, back parlor, sitting room, boudoir, withdrawing room, drawing room, living-room, salon, lounge—they (more…)

Mattie Stenographer

July 21, 2014

Tags: Mattie, fashion or clothes, light, offices, work-in-progress

As I tried to say last Thursday, I'll be writing more about my new work as well as Where the Light Falls. For instance, the stenographer shown here taking shorthand on her pad is younger than my new heroine, but I found the picture helpful in visualizing how Mattie might be dressed (shirt sleeves, no hat, pleated skirt) (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…)

Autumn street scene

July 29, 2013

Tags: light, street views

When Sonja is ready to begin work on portrait medallions for Edward, she and Jeanette walk one silvery, wet night from La Poupée en Bas to the studio on the Rue Madame. I’d say Hassam’s picture depicts October rather than November, and the hour is obviously closer to sunset than true darkness. Still, it is the sort of streetscape that helped me imagine Paris in various seasons and lights. Notice especially here, the streetlamps and shop widows in the misty distance horizontally across the middle third of the painting.

Flight into Egypt

July 8, 2013

Tags: Rembrandt, Renicks, Jeanette, Edward, Charlie Post, painting in the novel, light

The Renicks’ copy of Rembrandt’s Flight allowed me to show Edward and Jeanette reacting together to the same evocative object but with different emotional responses. In this scene, the painting embodies emotional light and shadow, the need for safety and the longing for transcendence. In general, it illustrates artists’ concern for sources of light and where the falls. The hidden moon also echoes Charlie Post’s sickle moon, and the fire adds that touch of red or warm color that plays into several compositions in the book.

Swiss Interlude

June 6, 2013

Tags: Edward, Monet, Theodore, light

Geographical accuracy is one thing, inspiration another. Although Sainte-Addresse is on the coast of Normandy, not in Switzerland, in imagination I transferred the atmosphere of Monet’s seaside garden to a lakeside hotel terrace for Edward and Theodore’s conversation about Kiel and the Louvre. All the while that I pictured lawns sloping down to Lake Constance and mountains across the lake, this painting of full sun on bright nasturtiums, geraniums, and gladiolus, of flags snapping in the breeze, and an expanse water with boats also shaped the scene for me. Instead of viewing it from a high above, however, I squatted just behind and between the brothers.