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Picturing a World

A Tenth Street studio

Does the romantic ideal of the impoverished artist, unappreciated yet dedicated to the authenticity of his vision, survive into the commercialized 21st C? Its heyday may have been the 19th C, yet the 19th C also saw artists striving to be taken seriously as professionals. When William Merritt Chase painted his studio at the Tenth Street Studio Building, he wanted the viewer to recognize the opulence of his furnishings. An 1880 photograph shows the same chest and many props, framed pictures, mounted fans, etc.  Read More 
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Advertising placards

This summer, my husband and I went to an exhibition, The Unknown Hopper: Edward Hopper as Illustrator on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, through October 26, 2014. Night on the El Train was not among the work we saw. It is, in fact, one of the freestanding etchings that Edward Hopper made in an effort to support himself beyond magazine illustrationat the start of his career. The Rockwell show, however, demonstrates how much drama and focus he brought to his commercial drawings.

And don’t we all wish it was still the custom to commission illustrations for books and magazine stories! It happens, of course, for children’s picture books and deluxe editions of books some fiction for adults (For two examples, click here and here.)  Read More 
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Podoscaphe

Website tip: One last day on the water before summer's end? Howzabout this Ms. Fowler in 1878? The craft is a podoscaphe, a new word for me. For more, click here.
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Frames

Website tip: In Framing "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth, Peter Perez of MoMA discusses how he chose wood and design to reframe a masterpiece.
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Learning by blogging

To complement Bellows’ Steaming Trains, I was looking for one of Hassam’s American urban landscapes when I came across this image of Paris. Aha! One of the Wallace water fountains I didn’t know about until this summer. Well, well.

My experience is that you don't leave a fictional world behind even after you finish a story. Things keep reminding you of it and adding to your understanding of characters, setting, and motives. And there’s nothing like blogging to make you bring together bits of this and that! Read More 
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Colors

Website tip: A nifty interactive website, Pigments through the Ages lets you explore colors, how pigments are made, the history of individual pigments, and various painting techniques. Informative time-sink!
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Urban energy

As I said in last Thursday’s post, Bellows' painting of a horse being brought under control conveys complex information and energy. It has attitude. It helps me imagine life in the city at the start of the 20th C. Can't you just feel how the cold, wet nastiness makes the frustrated driver’s task harder, the danger greater? The gaping child and other spectators are also reminders of the theatricality of life on the streets.

Jeanette is always conscious of her good fortune to be in beautiful Paris. Mattie is aware of the rawness and challenge of New York. What she finds in her city is power and newness, unending change and demand that she make herself over, make her life her own.

George Bellows was from Ohio. His eyes help me imagine how my Ohio character sees what is around her. For several more of his paintings of the city, click here.  Read More 
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Watercolor kit

Blog tip James Gurney has a new post on what you need for a portable watercolor kit. He provides a short instructional video and a detailed discussion of materials. How Jeanette would have loved one!
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Almanac art et al., 1908

To visualize Mattie’s world, I’ve been collecting images from 1908. They don’t have to illustrate anything in the story, just help me sharpen my understanding of the period. This almanac cover, for instance, calls attention to pride urban architecture coupled with a Gibson-Girl style allegorical beauty, to modes of traffic, and the  Read More 
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Henry van Ingen

During my research, it was a delight to discover that there was a popular art teacher at Vassar. If I had known when I was writing that Henry van Ingen was so romantically sensitive in appearance, I suppose I might have given Jeanette a full-scale crush on him. It might have helped prepare for her interest in an older man. Then again, the student author of Letters from Old-Time Vassar, Written by a Student in 1869–70 (Poughkeepsie, 1915) wrote home that “we never think of our teachers as men or Miss Lyman wouldn’t have them here” (p. 70).

A photograph of van Ingen, cigarette in hand as he talks to a girl in the art gallery, captures some of the sly humor I believe the man had. I admit, however, that I pictured him as pudgier and more avuncular.  Read More 
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