I hate what Sotheby's did to the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; but news that the auction house will be selling this remarkable painting, Scène de rue à Montmartre (Impasse des Deux Frères et le Moulin à Poivre) by Vincent van Gogh is just too interesting to pass over. It has been in a private family, so at least its sale will not damage a museum. And if you go to the Sotheby's page, you'll be able to enlarge the image and get the impact of van Gogh's brush work. It conveys better than any painting I've ever seen before the ramshackle nature of Montmartre and its windmills.
Picturing a World
Here is Walter Gay depicting the Gilded Age interior splendor for which he is best known. The word is luxe. (And, yea, the painting is shown in its ornate gilt frame.) I'll leave it to art historians to discuss Gay as an artist. For those of us who write fiction his pictures offer loads of period details for life among the rich in the latter part of the 19th C and into the 20th, especially in France.
"Creative misprision" is a concept in literary criticism. Briefly put, an artist or a writer misinterprets someone else's work and takes off from there in a new direction. When I first saw this pastel drawing by Walter Gay, I thought the window looked out onto the brick wall of the next building. I saw the room as empty, dusty, and formerly grand but now hemmed in and down-at-heels. Maybe it could be the setting for a young protagonist who is thrilled to find a romantic apartment which is cheap because of the blocked view. Maybe it could illustrate a melancholy last view by someone moving out. The fact that the image is non-narrative in itself makes it more potent in a way for stimulating imagination.
This photograph shows how many props, bibelots, and other furnishings filled Walter Gay's own studio. In looking for a photo of Carolus-Duran in his for comparison, I was delighted to find that a post—Where the Light Falls: An American Artist in Paris—is still available at the American Girls Art Club in Paris … and Beyond website. It has many images that illustrate the novel, including one of Carolus in his studio at his organ.
As a first follow-up to my last post, here is another painting that could be a "portrait without a person," one that could help a writer create the character of late-19th C artist and visualize a setting. Notice that this picture is not attributed to Walter Gay himself, but to an unnamed follower.
In Where the Light Falls, my character Jeanette sketches and paints what she calls "portraits without people." The latter part of the 19th C saw many artists turn to picturing furnished rooms from which figures are excluded or very much subordinated to representations of light, textures, furniture, wall hangings, ornaments, house plants, etc. These are not genre pictures with implied stories, and yet they do let us catch glimpses of personalities, either the occupants' or the artist's.
Blog post alert: For an insider's look at commercial art, ghostwriting, and publishers, the always interesting Kathleen Jennings has a long interview—"Ghoulish but sentimental"—with fellow artist and writer, Socar Myles. Myles's startling artwork is gorgeous. I've never read any of her fiction, whether ghostwritten or published in her own name; but I was fascinated by everything she had to say.
When I ran across this image at Costume History last September, it jumped out at me for three reasons: First, the real Jeanette worked at McCall's Magazine in her later life. Second, my work-in-progress, ANONYMITY, is set in 1908. And third, I'm always on the lookout for pictures I can use for this blog. Naturally, I saved it. So Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Now that I've re-opened it, however, I'm also struck by its ambiguity. What is that pensive woman thinking?
Blog post alert: I'm a sucker for scale models, stuffed animals, and children's books. Imagine my delight in finding I Made Needle Felted Badger from "The Wind in the Willows." Perfect coziness, and perhaps inspiration for a hand craft or a story. A soothing way to end a week of impeachment, COVID-19, and winter weather, for sure!
Blog post alert: Yea! Real terracotta busts that retain their original paint, with the bonus of letting us catch a glimpse of a female hairstyle. These ladies two are among Dozens of terracotta cult figurines found in ancient Myra.
Via the History Blog