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Picturing a World

Flight into Egypt

The Renicks’ copy of Rembrandt’s Flight allowed me to show Edward and Jeanette reacting together to the same evocative object but with different emotional responses. In this scene, the painting embodies emotional light and shadow, the need for safety and the longing for transcendence. In general, it illustrates artists’ concern for sources of light and where the falls. The hidden moon also echoes Charlie Post’s sickle moon, and the fire adds that touch of red or warm color that plays into several compositions in the book. 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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World's Fair (IV): Merlin

Burne-Jones's Merlin was, in fact, shown at the Paris World's Fair of 1878. It played perfectly into my wish to touch obliquely on the topic of an older man's infatuation with a younger woman while dramatizing only the barest beginnings of Edward and Jeanette's romance.

To my mind, Burne-Jones is a strange artist, often gorgeous and repellent simultaneously. Readers, how would you answer Jeanette's question in the novel: Is this painting wonderful or ghastly? Read More 
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Erasmus

Before there were photographic reproductions, artists copied in museums as part of their exploration of past masters' work; and the second-rate among them could make a living copying pictures that other people wanted as souvenirs for their walls. In a passage that was cut from the final text of Where the Light Falls, Jeanette watches a hardened old pro making yet another copy of Holbein's Erasmus. She has a brief exchange with him and reflects on how much her father would like to have the portrait in his study. As far as I'm concerned, the encounter took place and so I'm slipping it back into the world of the novel via this blog. Authors, do some scenes that fail to make the final cut remain potent in your memory? And, readers, when deleted material is subsequently published, do you incorporate it into your idea of a book? Read More 
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The Shrine of Shakespeare

Jeanette carries her unfinished copy of Gifford’s Shrine of Shakespeare from Vassar to New York City. After she, her mother, and Cousin Effie visit the Tenth Street Studio Building, she brings it out to show the family—thereby provoking the quarrel that sends her to Paris. At Vassar’s Frances Lehmann Loeb Art Center, I was able to view works from the college’s earliest collection, the Magoon Collection. It helped me think my way into Jeanette’s situation to look at works she might actually see. The catalogue of an earlier Read More 
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Morning

This is a version of a painting at Vassar that Jeanette ruefully knows she may never see again when she runs upstairs to the art gallery after being expelled. I could feel her grief and her love of beauty as she gazed at it. But for me as the author, the painting also symbolized the bigger, more light-filled future that lay ahead for her across the bay. New York! Paris!  Read More 
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