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Picturing a World

Twelfth Night, or what you Will

I don’t much like 19th C caricatures, but I love the punch drinker’s salute to William Shakespeare’s bust here. As you probably know, the play Twelfth Night was written by Shakespeare in the winter of 1601–1602 (the first recorded performance was on Candlemas Night,  Read More 

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Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner

How marvelous to see Asians, African-Americans, a native of the First Nation, and women among those invited to Uncle Sam’s 1869 Thanksgiving Dinner—with universal suffrage as centerpiece! Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Read More 
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Fluffy Ruffles

And now for a working woman of a different sort: Meet Fluffy Ruffles, heroine of a weekly syndicated feature of the New York Herald. An heiress who has lost her fortune and keeps trying out new jobs to make a living, she first appeared in 1906. By 1908, she'd had musical written about her—with music by Jerome Kern, no less. Read More 
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This not an April Fool …

This is not an April Fool’s joke, but a genuine double-page spread. Anyone care to speculate on the sex of author and illustrator?
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Varnishing day

Without explaining the ins and outs of the annual state-sponsored art exhibition known as the “Salon,” I wanted readers to experience how important it felt to most professional artists, students, critics, and journalists. As Robida’s illustration for La Caricature (7 mai 1891) suggests, the last day before the official opening was a mad frenzy as painters varnished canvasses already hung or showed their works to special guests. Charlie Post's breakdown and Jeanette's horror were intended to dramatize the intensity of emotions. I also hoped that Chapter Thirty-Five would be vivid enough to carry over and intensify the reader’s experience of the Salon of 1880 in Chapter Forty-Eight.

For an article on the official annual art exhibitions in Paris and London, click hereRead More 
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Noggins

From the sublimity of Friday's Rembrandt to the absurdity of Punch today! Punch was my model for Noggins, the humor magazine to which Robbie Dolson contributes his satirical article about lady painters at the Breton seacoast. I read enough passages to have fun writing a pastiche, but I did not go so far as to mock up Noggins pages. Are any of you historical fiction writers also re-enactors? If so, what you have done and how has it affected your writing?

To read many volumes of Punch on line, click hereRead 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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Countess Marie Bashkirtseff

Artist unknown, Marie Bashkirtseff (1878)
Anyone researching women students at the Académie Julian comes up against Countess Marie Bashkirtseff from the get-go. Besides a self-portrait, she painted a picture, In the Studio of a women's class and kept a voluminous diary in which she recorded her drama-queen feelings, studio gossip, and lots of concrete particulars about what went on in the classes. Talented, vain about her looks, ambitious, and far from tactful, she attracted devoted followers but also provoked many of her classmates, some of whom rallied behind another star at the school, Louise Breslau. I suppose it was a detractor who produced this cartoon! Read More 
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