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Picturing a World

Effie studies

Reviewing some old files, I found these sketches by Edgar Degas, which I had labeled "Effie studies." It made me smile. Ordinarily, I like to highlight female artists in this blog, but who can resist the occasional work by the other sex? In this case, I remember thinking that it was as if I were seeing dimensions of my own character revealed to me by an artist who had seen her in a slightly different way. The seated woman in the middle one is, self-effacing, but not unintelligent. The one on the right—unself-consciously clutching her bag or a book and her umbrella—catches aspects of the Cousin Effie who made her way around Paris on her own while Jeanette was in class in Where the Light Falls. And, of course, they really pertain to Degas' depiction of Mary Cassatt in the Louvre (ca. 1880).
 

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Asta Nørregaard

I saw this painting by the Norwegian painter Asta Nørregaard at an exhibition while I was researching Where the Light Falls. At the time, I was unable to find an image on line, but memory of it influenced how I imagined Jeanette’s first studio of her own. Its spareness and gray walls, in contrast to the lusher studios so often depicted during this period, seemed specially appropriate to Jeanette’s pocketbook and her mood at that point in the novel. At the time I was writing, I thought that it was Cousin Effie’s love of Whistler’s decorative schemes at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878 that made her to want to paint the walls yellow; I suspect now that the colors in this painting also subtly influenced my imagination of how the two characters would react to a studio space.  Read More 
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Duval restaurant

To make a world real, it seems to me you have to know what people ate and where and when. When the Duval restaurants turned up early in my research I knew I could use them; and Renoir's painting of a Duval waitress became a touchstone image for me. Not only the quietly respectable young woman but the figured wallpaper and curtains suggested a feminine air that would be reassuring to Jeanette and Effie.

Pierre Louis Duval, a butcher, began selling servings of a meat cooked in broth to workers ca. 1855. From this venture grew a chain of restaurants. They were clean, well-run places where women on a budget could eat safely.  Read More 
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Three figures

Blog tip: I’m exploring a blog new to me, Poul Webb’s Art & Artists. Its posts on individual artists are illustrated by many images. This one comes from a post on early John Singer Sargent and demonstrates Sargent’s ease and his unconventional cropping. Jeanette notices both when she sees his sketch of Mrs. Renick. It also illustrates the awareness of flesh that she must take for granted in her class for the nude despite the way it upsets Effie and disquiets Edward. Read More 
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Tree house restaurant

The village of Plessis just outside Paris was the site of a restaurant built in 1848 as a tree house in honor of Swiss Family Robinson. Its popularity led to the town’s adopting the name Plessis-Robinson Meals in baskets—typically roast chicken, bread, and wine—were pulled up on ropes to customers.  Read More 
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Cousin Effie at last

For years, I’ve been on the lookout for a painting, drawing, or photograph that reminds me of Cousin Effie. She is very vivid in my mind, as are Jeanette’s drawings of her; but no luck—until, finally, up popped this image. Not perfect, but  Read More 
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Asleep on a train

For my new novel, I’m investigating early 20th C photography and print processes. This picture of a girl asleep on a train appears Read More 
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Bastien-Lepage deleted

Only one truncated paragraph about Effie and Miss Isobel’s Pont Aven fête at the end of August 1879 survived editing. In the fuller account, the ladies are agog when they receive a drawing of Joan of Arc from Jules Bastien-Lepage for their  Read More 
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Joyeux Noël!

On their first Christmas Eve in Paris, Jeanette and Effie go to services at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. On Christmas Day in both 1878 and 1879, they attend services at The American Church in Paris on the rue de Berri, Read More 

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Puppets in the Park

It’s December 23rd, the day Cousin Effie takes Angelica to a marionette show in the park, so I’m going to leave Jeanette and Edward in the summertime Luxembourg Garden and detour into Christmas. Well, I admit it's also summer in Ellen Houghton's picture of a puppet show in the leafy Tuileries Garden,  Read More 
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