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Picturing a World

Views from above

Although I live in a country town where some friends and I will decorate the town library this week with greens cut from our own properties, there’s a part of me that still associates Christmas shopping with big cities: Atlanta, where I grew up; Boston; Paris, where I spent an enchanted holiday with an aunt and cousins. It’s the Paris connection that popped into my mind when I ran across Caillebotte’s Boulevard again today. Read More 

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Inside Looking Out

I had never seen a reproduction of Kitty Kielland’s Paris Interior until I read the catalogue for Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900. Now I can hardly wait to see it, first and foremost because it represents the life of a young woman artist, the life explored in Where the Light Falls. Second because I love pictures of views out windows (in fact, I love real views framed by real windows). And third because of the samovar. Read More 

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Man with a boat

Whether Pissarro's Turkeys hung in the 4th Impressionist show (1879) or not, Caillbotte's Man Docking His Skiff certainly did. Because I had the good luck to see it in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and could examine the actual weave of the canvas and brushstrokes it went onto a short list of paintings for my characters to see, too. What fires the imagination is what matters the most in writing fiction. Read More 
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Edward's apartment

When he returns to Paris from Rome, Edward sublets an apartment on the Right Bank in a new, comfortable district of straight boulevards, harmonious architecture, and no haunting history. Some critics claim that painters of urban modernity in the last quarter of the 19th C depicted alienation and emptiness. They would call your attention to how far Caillebotte’s solitary viewer is removed from the street. But to me, standing as he is at ease above a boulevard lined with trees and handsome buildings, the man suggests Edward: alone perhaps, yet content to contemplate the gifts of civilization and peace in contrast to the horrors of war.

For a street-level view by Caillebotte of the same sort of neighborhood (and solitary man), click hereRead More 
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Fruit stand

On the way to Amy and Sonja’s studio for a session of sketching in the chapter “Winter’s Cold,” Jeanette is struck by how artistically French tradesmen arrange fruits and vegetables. Those beautifully piled displays are something I love about Paris, which is why I put them in the novel and why I was mindful of this painting as I wrote. In the original manuscript, Jeanette banters with a fruitier while she makes her selection of apples to take with her. The scene was edited way down, but here are fruits to linger over—they are even summer fruits for August! Read More 
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