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Picturing a World

Jennings’ Undine Love

Kathleen Jennings, 2020 illus. for "Undine Love"

A post, Undine Love: Reprint, new art, at Kathleen Jennings' blog took me to the reprint of her story, "Undine Love," in full at Tor. What a treat—both the story and the silhouettes! They are a reminder that updating a fairy tale or folkloric motif can be a great way to begin a story of your own. The backbone of plot comes essentially ready-made, leaving you free to work on other aspects of composition—setting, character, dialogue, incidents (as opposed to the underlying structure). The talent to illustrate would be a big bonus—and might just affect the tone and finished piece. Wish I had the talent and the training!

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Bridge tallies

During Massachusetts' stay-at-home order, I have been sorting family papers and came across these two vibrant, witty little watercolors by Knoxville artist, Mary Etta Grainger (1880–1963). I knew they were souvenirs from a bridge party; but, not being a bridge player myself, I did not know what to call them. A little poking around on the web introduced me to "bridge tallies." They are like dance cards. At a bridge party, guests sign each other's cards to assure a rotation at different tables. Sets of printed tallies were all the rage in the 1920's, and you can see scads of them at the Laura M. Mueller Bridge Tally Card Collection. But how much more delicious to receive a unique, individualized card!

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Puzzling women

More fun imagining Mattie's New York: My last post included a link to a jigsaw puzzle set made from Clara Miller Burd illustrations. I followed up the clue and learned from Bob Armstrong's website that the craze for jigsaw puzzles for adults began in Boston, moved to New York in 1908, and was dominated early by—get ready for this—women puzzle cutters! An important one, Margaret Hayed Richardson, called her company Perplexity. Just making up names for an imaginary company would be a hoot. And clearly, if Mattie's immediate artist and publishing friends aren't directly involved in it, they'll know people who are.

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White Rabbits

Blog post alert: For International Women's Day, see James Gurney's recent post on the "White Rabbits," the female students of sculptor Loredo Taft who helped him fulfill a commission to decorate the Horticulture building at Chicago's Columbian Exposition in 1893. They all went on to distinguished careers themselves. (I love seeing what the working female sculptor wore).

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Mary Nimmo Moran

I love it when (a) I find a new woman artist; (b) a picture widens my imaginary world; or (c) there's an overlap between my stories via an illustration. This etching by Mary Nimmo Moran shows me a possibility in the New York City that Jeanette visits when she goes to her Aunt Maude in Where the Light Falls. Since it seems to be up a hill, it may also illustrate a view Mattie might have up in Morningside Heights in "Anonymity"—although by 1908, the farm would likely have vanished. Best of all, I have learned that Mary Nimmo Moran was a female artist who was actually encouraged in her work by the artist husband who had been her teacher. Three cheers!

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Book buying

Before settling in to work on my fantasy novella this morning, I made the mistake of skimming the news. After that, I needed a better picture in my mind's eye, for sure, so I visited Terry Windling's Dartmoor Mythic Arts page, which, in turn, took me to Virginia Lee's home page and this mysterious landscape. I allowed myself to poke around at her website and found her illustrated edition of The Frog Bride by Antonia Barber, one of my favorite children's book authors. At Better World Books, I found a copy and ordered it. If you don't know that venue, its profits go to literacy programs, and it provides a carbon offset feature for shipping (at the grand cost of $0.04 in this case!). It's much more worth supporting than the behemoth Amazon. Sales of used books do not profit authors (don't I know!), but they do help circulate work on the budgets that so many of us book lovers can afford.

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Beaux sketch

Sketches, studies, and unfinished work of any kind have an appealing immediacy. They are good for characterizing artists, and good reminders that rough drafts, false starts, and revision are all part of writing any sort of story. Cecilia Beaux's autobiography, Background with Figures, was a key source for me when I was researching Where the Light Falls. Wouldn't I have loved to have this image then! For anyone who wants a quick look at Beaux and the Breton art scene, the blog my daily art display has a good post on Beaux in Concarneau, the summer of 1888.

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Bertha Newcombe’s model

I'm always on the lookout for images that reveal something about the life of Parisian artists' models. Bertha Newcombe was an English suffragist, who studied at the Académie Colarrossi in Paris. Here, her woman's-eye sketch of the end of a day captures how tired the hardworking her fellow art students were and how matter-of-fact the model was in putting her clothes back on. More of Newcombe's work can be found at Wikipedia Commons, including a nifty women's suffrage poster.

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Thérèse Schwartze

Blog post tip: James Gurney’s recent blog post on the Dutch portraitist Thérèse Schwartze, which includes photographs of her at work on this portrait, alerted me to a woman painter who studied in Paris in 1879 with Carolus-Duran’s associate Jean-Jacques Henner. They just keep turning up!

For more of Schwartze’s work, including portraits of the Dutch royal family, click hereRead More 

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Christmas commerce and celebration

I was looking for a seasonal image and found this “Christmas gifts” issue of Vogue for 1918. A hundred years later, it reminds us of the joyous and tattered end of World War I. And it’s by an American woman artist! Helen Dryden. Born in Baltimore in 1882, she moved to New York in 1909 to sell artwork to magazines—just about the time that ANONYMITY’s Mattie would have known her. Perfect. Read More 

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