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Picturing a World

Whistler's Cloud cabinet

To prepare for my September 27th talk on Where the Light Falls and Prevention’s list of 55 Happy Books Proven to Boost Your Mood, I reread my novel and found myself wondering what images might be available now that were not when I was researching. Well, this one is splendid! I had used written descriptions of the yellow-and-gold room that Whistler designed for the Paris World’s Fair of 1878, the room that makes Jeanette long to move from drawing to painting, the room that inspires Cousin Effie to cut free from New York decorum in thinking about interior fashions. Read More 

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Napoleon III

Emperor Napoleon III might not be anyone's choice as companion on a Summer Adventure, but he provided worlds of anecdotal material during his reign and he'll take us back into Where the Light Falls. At Cornelia Renick’s house, Maestro Hippolyte Grandcourt regales a lunch gathering with a story about a model who stood in for him while the many official portraits required by an empire were being painted. This anecdote was my way of glancing back at France’s glittering Second Empire (1852–1870), which haunted French memory in the first decades of the succeeding Third Republic (1870–1940). Read More 
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World's Fair (III): Panoramas

This map is very similar to the one in my great-grandfather's guidebook. At the time, artists also produced ærial panoramic views of the fairgrounds, which included the vast Great Exhibition Hall on the Left Bank of the Seine and the Palace of the Trocadero on the Right Bank. For one of the best, click here and be sure to click on the panorama to reach the highest resolution.

The page includes other images of the fair, including a photograph of the rhinoceros that pleased Edward so much and that Jeanette later used for a Peregrine Partout cartoon. Read More 
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World's Fair (II): Prince of Wales

The use of plate glass for such things as ceilings and display windows was an innovation of the 19th Century. The way that glass is both transparent and a barrier between inside and out was, furthermore, something that people noticed. Outside, the Great Exhibition Hall reflected the sky in ever-changing movements of color and light. Inside, on bright days, the brilliance of the natural sunlight it transmitted had to be controlled by movable screens. Read 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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Whistler's Peacock Room

I can't resist an out-of-sequence post. A website has just come to my attention that helps wonderfully in visualizing the gold room that James MacNeil Whistler decorated for the 1878 World's Fair, the room that so overwhelms Cousin Effie. The post for February 14, 2013, at Britain's National Trust blog, Treasure Hunt, concerns "The Peacock Room," designed in London by Whistler in 1876. Even that short post provides a glimpse Whistler's decorative taste. Best of all for Where the Light Falls, it alerted me to The Story of the Beautiful, a website that includes a virtual tour of the Peacock Room as it was first installed in London and later in Detroit. Visit and then use your imagination to create a room at the World's Fair! Read More 
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