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Picturing a World

Michael Ancher’s breakers

I gave my fictional artist Charlie Post an obsession with painting oncoming waves because that really was a motif for more than one 19th C painter—witness this one by Skagen artist Michael Ancher,  Read More 

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Calm waters

Surfing on the net (not the sea!) landed me yesterday at a sale at Christie’s, where this painting was up for auction. It’s just the sort of thing I had in mind for Charlie Post’s obsessively pursued subject of sea, horizon, and shoreRead 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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Waves—then and now

Web tip: For a mesmerizing, interactive image of a 1908 painting of waves click here. If you move your cursor across it, the image slides between the painting and a modern photograph taken from a vantage point to duplicate it. The site has several such images. I chose this one because it reminded me of Charlie Post’s Wave, but scroll down the page and try some others. A time sink, but fun. (With thanks to the Gurney Journey.) Read More 
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Flight into Egypt

The Renicks’ copy of Rembrandt’s Flight allowed me to show Edward and Jeanette reacting together to the same evocative object but with different emotional responses. In this scene, the painting embodies emotional light and shadow, the need for safety and the longing for transcendence. In general, it illustrates artists’ concern for sources of light and where the falls. The hidden moon also echoes Charlie Post’s sickle moon, and the fire adds that touch of red or warm color that plays into several compositions in the book. Read More 
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Wave

Harrison’s Wave inspired Charlie Post’s paintings of water, plain and simple. My idea for Charlie’s receding sickle moon, however, came more from Tonalist paintings with their atmospheric suggestions of mystery.
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Charlie Post

I’m not sure which came first, seeing Hovenden’s Self-Portrait or imagining Charlie Post. Like Charlie, Hovenden here seems to me pugnacious, introspective, dissatisfied, brooding, wistful, though his self-confidence is of a different stripe from Charlie’s obsessive belief in his work.

This self-portrait also points to a motif that could have been part of the novel but wasn’t, namely how musically accomplished many of the artists of this period were (including Carolus-Duran and John Singer Sargent). Notice how the scroll above the Hovenden’s violin peg box just touches the edge of the picture on his easel, symbolically joining the two arts. Similarly, in Marie Bashkirtseff’s self-portrait of 1880, the harp behind the painter just touches her palette. Read More 
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