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Picturing a World

Artist-soldier’s notebook at war

Writers jot down thoughts; artists jot down images. As a follow-up to my previous post on Edward Ardizzone's war paintings, here's a drawing from the same year, 1944, by Victor Alfred Lundy, a soldier who kept a notebook all through his service during WWII. He donated it to the Library of Congress, which has digitized the whole thing and made it available to the public. This particular page reminded me of Félix Bracquemond's etching of Bastion 84, the post where Parisian artists including Carolus-Duran served during the Franco-Prussian seventy-five years earlier. Like letters home, off-the-cuff drawings have an immediacy that historical fiction writers can plumb—but sometimes you also have to stand back and observe in silence. Six from L Company hurt here, six killed.
 
Thanks, James Gurney.

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Wallace water fountains

Writers of historical fiction are susceptible to what someone called “research rapture,” elation over trivia. It may be just as well that I did not know about Wallace water fountains when I wrote Where the Light Falls or I might have gleefully included one whether it was needed or not.

A recent BBC piece on impoverished Britons in France alerted me to the existence of these public drinking fountains.  Read More 
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On horseback, in pants

For my work-in-progress, I’ve been reading the autobiography of journalist Ida M. Tarbell, All in the Day’s Work. In 1892 for a McClure’s Magazine article, Tarbell interviewed the French archeologist and writer Jane Henriette Magre Dieulafoy, who with her husband Marcel worked on excavations in Persia.  Read More 
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Corpse of Henri Régnault

One more item that lay behind Edward and Carolus-Duran’s conversation about their two wars. Emile Zola said that Carolus-Duran made Edouard Manet  Read More 
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Résistance

Given the weather in most of the country this January, Carolus-Duran’s plunge into snowy memories during his summertime walk with Edward in the Tuileries Garden makes for a timely post. The painter really did assist his friend, Alexandre Falguière, build a snow sculpture at Bastion 84 on the southern wall of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, and so I could have him recount the incident to Edward when they discussed their respective wars.

For Bracquemond’s etching of Bastion 84, click here.

For an amusing film clip of a snowball fight in 1896, click here.

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Palace ruins

The American Civil War (1861-1865) has deeply affected the psyches of Cousin Effie and Edward; and as soon as I learned in my background reading that Carolus-Duran fought in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), I knew a shared experience of war could be an overt point of contact between him and Edward.  Read More 
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World's Fair (I): Glass

The World's Fair of 1878, or Exposition Universelle, was held to celebrate France's prosperous return to the world stage seven years after the Franco-Prussian War. It was big, it was grand, it was modern. The glass-and-steel domes of the Main Exhibition Hall may look old-fashioned to our eyes, but it is still impressive for its airy joie de vivre. If you click on the image to the left, a link will take you to a French site with photos chronicling its construction. And, no, this isn't an April Fool's Day joke! Read More 
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Ambassadeurs in the Champs-Élysées

After the Renicks' dinner party, Edward escorts Jeanette and Effie home then joins the rest of his family at a café-chansant, Les Ambassadeurs. In Renoir's Champs-Élysées, it is the building on the right. It was surrounded by its own gardens where gaslights on single posts and on tiers among the trees were part of the magical atmosphere. Acts were performed on an elaborate outdoor stage with the additional trees of the park deepening the leafy background. Read More 
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Beggar's Polka

Hippolyte Grandcourt is a wholly imaginary character whose presence enabled me to incorporate anecdotes about Paris beyond the action of the novel. Don't rely on him to tell the exact truth; don't even rely on him for anecdotes that exactly replicate my sources. He was not, for instance, present when Offenbach handed the mendicant his Beggar's Polka.

The music of Jacques Offenbach is specially associated with the Second Empire of Napoleon III—he's the composer of the Galop Infernal (1858) that we all know as the music to the can-can. Read More 
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