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Picturing a World

Holsøe’s Candlelight

Mostly, I like to highlight lesser known women artists, but sometimes it's worth calling attention to a man. A post at GurneyJourney reminded me of Danish painter, Carl Vilhelm Holsøe. Holsøe's depictions of rooms are atmospheric interiors, a genre at which his generation of Scandinavian artists seems to have excelled. (Think Harriet Backer or Anna Ancher.) I didn't know about him when I was imagining Jeanette's "portraits without people," but his work illustrates the way a room can embody psychological insight.
 
Pictures of rooms are also a boon to historical-fiction and fantasy writers for the details they provide—in this case, a candle in the darkness. 21st C people have little idea how dark rooms really were before electric lights. Older stories in which characters are hidden in shadow become much more believable when you experience a black-out, or light a room with only a candle or two as an experiment, or, as here, see the effect in art.

 

To see this still life as part of a larger interior, click here.

 

For more of Holsøe's work, click here.

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Elwell Landing

Website tip: Is it one of Jeanette’s Portraits without People or simply a painting of an interior? Either way, it’s a pleasure to be introduced to Mary Dawson Holmes Elwell—an artist who married a man twice her age, had a happy marriage (he supported her art), and after his death married the artist Frederick Elwell. Read all about it here.

Via Lines and ColorsRead More 

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Kitty Kielland's Studio

I love the way this painting illustrates a young artist’s studio as a place to live. The plain floor and dormer window hint at upper-storey, cheap digs. I didn’t include potted plants in any of my characters’ studios, but they turn up in other paintings and would be part of making an  Read More 

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Inside Looking Out

I had never seen a reproduction of Kitty Kielland’s Paris Interior until I read the catalogue for Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900. Now I can hardly wait to see it, first and foremost because it represents the life of a young woman artist, the life explored in Where the Light Falls. Second because I love pictures of views out windows (in fact, I love real views framed by real windows). And third because of the samovar. Read More 

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Anna Alma-Tadema

Today at an exhibition, Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., I saw a reproduction of this watercolor by Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s daughter Anna Alma-Tadema. Another portrait without people! As a novelist, I find these 19th C paintings of unpeopled rooms helpful aids to imagination. The suggest a sensibility but leave me free to imagine my own stories.  Read More 
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Ellen Clacy

Serendipity landed me on an unattributed posting of this image. I have a friend who has a specialist’s knowledge of blue-and-white china, so pictures of it always catch my eye. This painting, moreover, made me think of Jeanette at the Musée Cluny.  Read More 
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Harriet Backer

Website tip: Blue Interior by artist Harriet Backer is featured on today’s Lines and Colors. I have shown here another of her interiors, a Breton kitchen, that I wish I had known when I was writing Where the Light Falls. Not only does it illustrate the Gernagans’ kitchen, it fits perfectly with Jeanette’s motif of rooms as “portraits without people.” Read More 
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More Scandinavian interiors

Carl Vilhelm Holsoe The Dining Room

Blog tip: Another artist of domestic interiors—Carl Vilhelm Holsoe.

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Images and characters

Images help me speculate about my characters. Two posts this morning on It’s About Time contain paintings of rooms from 1908—the first on interiors by Peter Ilsted, the second on interiors by Henri Matisse. One question for me is which style would Jeanette be using in 1908? Another is  Read More 

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Kitchen

When I first started researching ANONYMITY, writer Polly Shulman suggested I look for Topless Towers, a 1921 novel by Margaret Ashmun. It is set in a Morningside Heights apartment building and gave me lots of leads for details of apartment life. It opens: Read More 
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