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Picturing a World

Studio party

This engraving of Gunnar Berndston's depiction of a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper appears in The Illustrated Catalogue of the Paris Salon for 1882. Such an engraved image might seem inadequate to eyes accustomed to photographic reproduction, yet turning the pages of the Salon catalogues in the research library of The Clark was a wonderful way to grasp the scope of the annual exhibitions. To see what I mean, click here for the next year's catalogue

In the 1882 catalogue, a few pictures seemed to leap out illustratively for Where the Light Falls. This one reminded me of Cecilia Beaux's anecdote in her autobiography, Background with Figures, about a supper she and her roommates prepared for male artist friends in Brittany. It begins: A few days before our departure, we became quite prankish and gave a supper-party in our attic. The pièce de résistance for this was to be a chicken salad (p. 155). I considered having my ladies at Pont Aven give a dinner for Ragland, Nagg, and Charlie Post, but it wasn’t needed for the plot. Oh, well. I could at least have Amy prepare tea at her Paris studio for Edward's visit to see Sonja's work. Incidentally, I treasure my first-edition copy of Background with Figures, which a friend found for 25¢ on a secondhand shelf at an orchard in Central Massachusetts. There is sophisticated research and then there is happy serendipity.

As for Berndston, he was a Finnish artist who studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1876 to 1882. The painting that brought him fame was The Bride’s Song. He made a career of landscape, genre and historical paintings, and book illustrations. For a number of his works, click here.
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