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Picturing a World

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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Hat for Jeanette?

Blog tip: Click here for one of several recent posts on hats at It’s About Time. Liljelund’s young woman (and her bangs) caught my eye because she reminds me of Jeanette, who loves clothes but needs to develop a fashion sense. Read More 
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Mound of Butter

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across this painting by Antoine Vollon, which brought to mind the night that Jeanette proposes to Amy and Sonja, “You know what we should do? Set up studies from a dairy shop: eggs, those big mounds of butter, and round cheeses—think of all the fat shapes.” Read More 
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Happy New Year's Day

On this first day of January, would that we could all be sitting, smartly dressed, in a Parisian garden-café or brasserie!

When I first saw Manet’s painting early in my writing of Where the Light Falls, I did a joyous double-take. Here was  Read More 
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Salon of 1880

The Salon of 1880 was so big that paintings had to be hung on the mezzanine above the sculptures for lack of space in the picture galleries. For the first time, they were also divided into sections for French artists and foreigners. While I was writing, I debated whether to have Jeanette win a place. The historical odds were against it, and I wanted her story to represent what a typical female student experienced. Read More 
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Taking pictures to the Salon

When I ran across this illustration early in my research, I knew Jeanette must ride in an omnibus when she delivered her Salon entry. Omnibuses, in fact, became a minor motif in the novel for no particular thematic reason; I just like them. But the tension involved in submitting work to the Salon, its importance  Read More 
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Lady of Shalott

Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott” was the first poem I can remember choosing myself to memorize for school, and I still sometimes murmur, On either side the river lie/Long fields of barley and of rye …. When Jeanette is worried  Read More 
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Venice

Originally, I meant for the Dolsons just to vanish. People do (or did before the internet) and Jeanette’s circle of friends in Paris must inevitably break apart. Novels, however, make demands their own. When I reread my almost completed  Read More 
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Dutch interior, empty room

This is the painting I have a melancholy Jeanette copy in the Louvre after Edward has gone south to Dr. Aubanel’s sanatorium. It would obviously appeal to an artist who perceives empty rooms as “portraits without people.”

Samuel van Hoogstraten was  Read More 
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Ancher’s blue room

Although a little girl is, in fact, shown sitting on a chair in this painting, it was one of the pictures I had in mind when I invented Jeanette’s interest in rooms as “portraits without people.” Anna Ancher, an almost exact contemporary of Jeanette,  Read More 
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