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

Fanny Brate—Another one lost to marriage

February 8, 2017

Tags: plein air, Scandinavian artists, schools, women artists

In Where the Light Falls, Amy points out bitterly to Jeanette that marriage means the end of a woman’s career in art. So it was for Fanny Brate (1861–1940), a Swedish painter who entered the Royal Swedish Academy of Art in 1880 and (more…)

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.

Leyendecker at the Académie Julian

January 10, 2016

Tags: Académie Julian, illustration, schools

Blog tip: Yesterday’s Gurney Journey post lets you read what J. C. Leyendecker, a Golden Age illustrator, had to say about the Académie Julian. For an interesting article on Leyendecker as a gay artist who defined images of the American male, click here.

Rodolphe Julian

March 24, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, Beaury-Sorel, Rodolphe Julian, schools, sketches

Mention of Rodolphe Julian (1839–1907) in last week’s post on the clothed model made me realize that I should post on Julian himself—and, lo, another kneeling figure.

Born (and buried) in the village of Lapalud, Haut Vaucluse, in Provence, he was sent at an early age to Marseille to work in a bookstore. In the store he read (more…)

Class critique

February 3, 2014

Tags: Académie Julian, illustration, studio, schools, women artists, Bouguereau

I recently came across this picture by Albert Guillaume. William Adolphe Bouguereau criticizing student work in Jeanette’s class at the Académie Julian? Not quite, but mighty close! It appears in the January 14, 1905, issue of the French weekly, L’Illustration, accompanying the magazine’s review of a play, La Massière by Jules Lemaître. (more…)

Bouguereau

March 4, 2013

Tags: Académie Julian, Bouguereau, schools, women artists

Jeanette Palmer is fictional; but one of the masters at the Académie Julian, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, fostered the career of a real American woman, Elizabeth Jane Gardner, whom eventually he married as his second wife. Click here for his portrait of her, which was also painted in 1879.

Is it my imagination, or does his self-portrait reveal a sadness and sensitivity unexpected in a painter of marzipan nudes and sentimental children? In any case, besides using him to dramatize the teaching methods employed at the time, I wanted the novel to portray the esteem with which he was held by his students. The touch of red on his collar is the much-coveted badge indicating membership in the Legion of Honor.

Countess Marie Bashkirtseff

February 25, 2013

Tags: Bashkirtseff, Académie Julian, caricature, schools, women artists

Artist unknown, Marie Bashkirtseff (1878)
Anyone researching women students at the Académie Julian comes up against Countess Marie Bashkirtseff from the get-go. Besides a self-portrait, she painted a picture, In the Studio of a women's class and kept a voluminous diary in which she recorded her drama-queen feelings, studio gossip, and lots of concrete particulars about what went on in the classes. Talented, vain about her looks, ambitious, and far from tactful, she attracted devoted followers but also provoked many of her classmates, some of whom rallied behind another star at the school, Louise Breslau. I suppose it was a detractor who produced this cartoon! (more…)

Costumes

February 21, 2013

Tags: Académie Julian, costumes, schools

Rodolphe Julian brags to Jeanette on the size of his school's collection of costumes. As I wrote, I was aware of American illustrators, e.g., Abbey, and imagined a future for Jeanette in that field.

For a contemporary illustrator's explanation of why actual costumes are important and tips on how to make or obtain them, click here.

No-nonsense woman artist

February 18, 2013

Tags: women artists, Académie Julian, schools, Amy, Sonja, Bilinska-Bohdanowicz

It may be unromantic on Valentine's Day, but what I love about this self-portrait is Anna Bilinska-Bohdanowicz's straightforward gaze, no-nonsense hair, and that apron. Admittedly, the dress is not really what you'd wear in the studio, not without a painter's smock to cover it fully. Still, there is no doubt that she wants you to think of her as a working artist. In different measures, I transferred her attitude to Amy and Sonja.

She was a student at the Académie Julian. For more information about her, click here.

Académie Julian

February 14, 2013

Tags: Académie Julian, studio, schools, women artists, photograph

This photo gives an idea of how many women crowded into Rodolphe Julian's highly successful art classes, and the drawings mounted on the wall shows how good the best of them were. Notice how they are posed so that not everyone is staring straight ahead at the canera. That was a 19th C convention for group photographs. It is artificial, but it does enliven the composition—just a little prod toward the historical novelist's goal of imagining them as separate individuals, each with her own story.

For Jefferson David Chalfant's informative painting of one of the men's studios, click here.

Vassar College

November 30, 2012

Tags: Vassar, schools, Jeanette

Where the Light Falls opens as Jeanette Palmer is being expelled from Vassar College. To imagine what the college meant to her, I read a lot about the campus and student life. With its Mansard roofs and symmetrical wings, the original main block was said to have been based on the Tuileries Palace in Paris (a nice echo for the novel). It embraced Old World grandeur and intellectual aspirations at the same time that it kept the girls contained within its protective walls. I like the way this print shows how impressive the college was in its rural setting and also hints at the surrounding beauties of the Hudson River Valley countryside where Jeanette's art class could go sketching.

For an image of a Vassar sitting room like the one in Jeanette's suite, go to dorm room.