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Picturing a World

Turkeys

I don’t know whether Pissarro’s Turkeys hung at the 4th Impressionist Exhibition (and don’t have The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886 at hand to check), but it could have. For an 1876 painting of turkeys by Monet, click here.

Happy Thanksgiving! Read More 
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Impression: Sunrise

Monet’s Impression: Sunrise is the iconic one, the quintessential example of rapid brushwork used to capture a moment painted out of doors. I knew from The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886 (2 vols.; 1996) that it hung at the 4th Impressionist exhibition (April 10–May 11, 1879), but I chose not to mention it specifically during my characters’ visits to the show because other paintings served my thematic and narrative purposes more pointedly. For this blog, however, what better to pair with the study in the previous post? Read More 
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Study for a portrait

I spent time looking at society portraits by Carolus-Duran in order to visualize my invented portrait of Cornelia Renick as well as to enliven the photograph of his portrait of Countess V—. Duran’s enjoyment of the rich fabric he preferred for his subjects is visible in this study for a portrait of his daughter, Mme. Ernest Feydeau, and I incorporated it into the gold of Cornelia’s gown. I’ve chosen to show this image instead of a finished portrait because it also illustrates the quick, loose brushwork that Jeanette was familiar with in the context of preparatory sketches and studies. It comes as a shock to her to see similar work on display for the public at the 4th Impressionist exhibition. Coming up next: Impressionism!

Meanwhile, to see both the finished portrait of Mme. Feydeau and the portrait of Countess Vandal in color, click here.

And for an actual golden dress worn by the subject of one of Duran’s paintings, click hereRead More 
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Carolus-Duran (3)

Sargent’s portrait of his teacher—mon cher maître, as he has written across the top of the canvas—hangs at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Seeing it there and recognizing the name as that of the real Jeanette Smith’s teacher was what set me off investigating the whole topic of American women art students in Paris. As I got into planning the novel, think what a gift it was to learn that this portrait won an Honorable Mention for Sargent at the 1879 Salon, the very year that Carolus-Duran won the top prize for his portrait of Countess V— discussed in the previous post. I knew at once they would both have to go into the novel. Read More 
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Countess de V—

The quality of this photograph of Carolus-Duran’s Portrait de Mme. la Comtesse de V[andal] may seem poor, but I was thrilled to find it among montages of other works bought by the French government at the 1879 Salon. As those of you who do historical or genealogical research know, a digital image of primary materials is almost as exciting as physical objects that can be picked up. (If you have a story of such a find, tell us in a comment below!)

Admittedly, a digital reproduction of a photograph of a painting is tertiary evidence at best, but knowing that the French government took such pains in documenting its purchases demonstrated art’s importance in official policy. Governmental encouragement contributed to the sense of art students like Jeanette that Paris was the best possible place for them to be. Read More 
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Book clubs

In the past week, two more book clubs—one in Athens, Ga., and one in Worcester, Mass.—were generous enough to invite me to discuss Where the Light Falls. It's wonderful to be invited into people's homes; and as a little thank-you, here is a link to a recent post on American Victorian domestic interiors. When I saw Lamson's Sitting Room, I thought of Maude Hendrick's sitting room in New York. It will be a continuing pleasure to remember the hospitality given me in yours! Read More 
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Sisters

I am just back from a trip to visit family and friends and to promote Where the Light Falls. One of my hostesses was my sister; another was my best friend from childhood, whose older sister was my sister’s friend. As a thank-you to them and a treat for rest of you, let me direct you to a recent post about paintings of sisters at It’s About Time (with thanks to the Two Nerdy History Girls for the original link). Read More 
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Varnishing day

Without explaining the ins and outs of the annual state-sponsored art exhibition known as the “Salon,” I wanted readers to experience how important it felt to most professional artists, students, critics, and journalists. As Robida’s illustration for La Caricature (7 mai 1891) suggests, the last day before the official opening was a mad frenzy as painters varnished canvasses already hung or showed their works to special guests. Charlie Post's breakdown and Jeanette's horror were intended to dramatize the intensity of emotions. I also hoped that Chapter Thirty-Five would be vivid enough to carry over and intensify the reader’s experience of the Salon of 1880 in Chapter Forty-Eight.

For an article on the official annual art exhibitions in Paris and London, click hereRead More 
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Bièvre

In the 1870’s, the small river Bièvre, which is now paved over within Paris, carried the waste of tanneries, leather factories, paper mills, and other noisome industries. Edward crosses it when he goes to help Effie at a McCall Mission clinic.

The McCall Mission was a Protestant missionary group. When I first ran across a reference to it in a published diary of sculptor Lorado Taft from his days as a student in Paris, I almost whooped with glee in the library. Now, I knew what Cousin Effie did with her spare hours!

For other views of the scummy river, click here and hereRead More 
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Letter from a party

Mention of Jeanette’s illustrated letters home had already been made in the narrative when my editor suggested using them to condense passages. The device proved helpful not only for summarizing events, but also for varying narrative rhythm and revealing the character’s attempts to shape her story for her family. In my imagination, moreover, I could make Jeanette as good a watercolorist as Albert Edelfelts! His letter (in Swedish) depicts “Mme Cotterau with Carolus Duran and Paul Deroulède.” It might as well be from Cornelia’s party after the portrait is unveiled, don’t you think?

For another page of the letter with a fashion doodle, click here.

For more information (in Swedish) at the vast Europeana website, click here

For an illustration of Paul Derouléde’s duel with Georges Clemenceau, click here. (Oh, the serendipity of the web!) Read More 
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