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Picturing a World

Kiosk

At the end of their stay in Pont Aven, Amy proclaims herself ready again for the rough and tumble of Paris; and once back in the city, Jeanette discovers that she no longer feels like a new girl. I had a framed print of Béraud’s Kiosk beside my chair as I wrote Where the Light Falls : it set the mood perfectly.

The urbane gentleman on the right is dressed as Edward dresses when he goes out for his walks. What I noticed first, though, were the two women prettily lifting their skirts to negotiate the streets—Baron Haussmann’s clean, clean streets and wide pavements, where a lady could walk in city shoes. Jeanette would have visited this very intersection of the Rue Scribe and Boulevard des Capucines on her way from her bank to the Académie Julian. Read More 
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Cirque Fernando

After their successful outing to the World's Fair, Edward takes Jeanette and Effie to the Cirque Fernando (later the Cirque Medrano), which featured horseback riders, clowns, and acrobats in a wooden hippodrome on Montmartre, built like a giant circus tent. Degas' painting of Mlle La La, hanging from a trapeze by her teeth, led me to have her perform that night. Later in the novel, my characters see the painting itself at the 4th Impressionist show. For Toulouse-Lautrec's depiction of the ringmaster and a rider, click here.

For a spring 2013 exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library centered on this picture, click hereRead More 
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Grand Central Station

A recent post in the fascinating blog Daytonian in Manhattan describes the building of Grand Central Station in New York City, where Jeanette and Cousin Effie arrive from Poughkeepsie in Chapter Two of Where the Light Falls. Isn’t it interesting how both the brick station and the glass-walled Great Exhibition Hall at the Paris World's Fair used domes over the central entrance and at the end of wings? In fact, you can relate them both to the symmetrical architecture of the Tuileries Palace and Vassar College if you want to pursue echoes in the novel! 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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Chanteuse

The outdoor Ambassadeurs, where Edward joins the other Murers, was famous for more than its lights among the trees. Singers, comedians, and acrobats performed. The female singers who were its most important stars were handsomely costumed, their repertoire often more popular than refined. You can see the crowd in the general admission seats on the left. In the novel, the Murers sit at one of the tables available at a higher charge. Carl dismisses the pretty girls sitting on the stage as unable to hold a girl at the Renicks' party, but you can see them for yourself here and hereRead 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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Inside the Renicks' House

The delicious Museé Jacquemart-André helped me invent the interior of the Renicks' house even if my fictional house is supposed to be older. Artist Nélie Jacquemart and her banker husband, Edouard André, built the mansion to display their art collection, which included many 18th C paintings, tapestries, and objects. To walk through it was to be in the house of connoisseurs with tastes similar to Marius Renick's. Gay's Grand Salon suggests why, after entering the Renicks' house, Edward finds that from now on he must expand his imagination for aristocratic scenes when he reads Balzac. Read More 
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Ostrich at the Zoo

When Edward takes his nephew Eddie to the Parisian zoo, the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, they see an ostrich pulling a cart. Although I had read about the ostrich, I had never seen a picture of it until I ran across Abroad. Illustrated by Thomas Crane (1808–1859), father of the far more famous illustrator Walter Crane (1845–1915), it follows an English family across the Channel and through France. Abroad conveys how a visitor in a foreign country finds that everything looks new and different. Read More 
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Boulevard Montmartre

In New York City, Jeanette has been told about an art school called the Académie Julian. Now in Paris, in Chapter Eight, as soon as she and Effie have rented an apartment, they set out to find it. The school, which admitted women students (unlike the national École des Beaux-Arts) was located in the Passage des Panaromas, a shopping arcade that ran—and still runs—north from the rue Saint-Marc to the boulevard Montmartre. Jeanette and Effie walk its length and are momentarily baffled when they find themselves here, on the boulevard beside the Theatre des Variétés. I have stood at this very spot; the passage would be to the right if it were in the oil sketch, Read More 
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Ladies at the Louvre

I loved finding this image early on—Jeanette and Cousin Effie! Or, no, what fun: Mary Cassatt and her sister Lydia posing for Edgar Degas, who reworked this basic composition in several media. (Besides this version, see also, for example, an etching and a study.)

On her first visit to the Louvre, Jeanette is humbled by the glories she encounters; but on later visits a part of her would want to strike a pose of confident, nonchalant connoisseurship. Effie would forever bury her nose dutifully in a guidebook. Read More 
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